A day after Orrin Hatch fell just short of avoiding a primary, the conventional wisdom has taken shape: Hatch starts out as the strong favorite in the primary, but if his opponent, Dan Liljenquist, raises enough money, he could make things quite uncomfortable for the incumbent. This Politico story reflects the prevailing view.
The Politico piece submits, as others have, that the convention that nearly gave Hatch the 60 percent vote total he needed to avoid a primary was stacked in the Senator’s favor. The implication is that the primary electorate may be more receptive than the convention was to a Tea Party style critique of the Senator, as would have to be the case in order for Hatch to be in any trouble. Politico goes on to say that Mitt Romney may be the wildcard because “if Romney decides to engage further in paid media contacts on behalf of Hatch, his sheer popularity alone could carry the 76-year-old incumbent over the finish line.”
I’m no expert in Utah Republican politics, but I’m conversant with logic. Romney’s record is less conservative than Hatch’s, and the ex-Massachusetts governor’s lack of appeal to strong conservatives is well-documented. If Romney nonetheless appeals as powerfully to Utah Republicans as Politico says, then Utah Republicans are not conservative enough to likely reject Hatch in favor of a challenger from his right, regardless of whether Romney becomes involved.