Doing the impossible: forcing Orrin Hatch to a primary


Two years ago, GOP delegates to the state convention knocked off Senator Bob Bennett, sending now-Senator Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater to a primary.  Orrin Hatch started his campaign for an unprecedented 7th term that very day. The Hatch campaign polled delegates and realized they could not win with that group, so they launched a campaign to target and remove the 75% of delegates that voted for change. “This is not going to be a campaign of persuading delegates,” said Dave Hansen at the time, former GOP party chair, now campaign manager for Hatch. “This is going to be a campaign of replacing delegates.”

They meant business. They hired 36+ staffers, not including the ones they sub-contract with. From January of 2011 through caucus night of this year, they spent almost $6 million.  They targeted primary voters in an older demographic and helped drive caucus turnout to record highs. Six out of seven delegates were new this cycle, were considerably more moderate than previous delegates and many were elected on one simple platform: “I support Orrin Hatch.”

After caucus night, the Hatch campaign claimed victory. They released poll after poll after poll that put them comfortably above the 60% threshold. Senator Hatch trumpeted “Mitt Romney needs me” at every turn. Never mind that Romney endorsed Hatch last September, long before there was a challenger in the race and when Olympia Snowe was still planning on running ….

Even with all of that – $6 million, 2-years of campaigning and a very favorable caucus night, Hatch could not seal the deal on convention day. Dan Liljenquist, his primary opponent, worked hard, holding 108 delegate meetings between caucus and convention. He traveled the state, looked delegates in the eye and answered every question. Dan’s message of true entitlement reform and the need to stop doing what we’ve always done in Washington resonated with delegates. Starting out with poll numbers around 16%, no one thought he had a shot. In fact, one anonymous “insider” said “Romney’s public embrace would hand any candidate a 70 percent chance of victory at the April 21 convention. It’s already over. Orrin Hatch has the election won. He won it caucus night. They don’t even need to have the convention.”

Yet here we are… unstoppable work ethic, hundreds of volunteers, thousands of live phone calls, a powerful speech and Dan got just under 41% of the vote – a 25-point swing in just 3 weeks.

Headed in to the primary, Hatch is already claiming victory – again. But even the national pundits are seeing cracks in the armor, writing articles with titles like “The Meaning of Orrin Hatch’s Nightmare” and “Hatch Heading for a Fall?” Dan Liljenquist has momentum, with hundreds of volunteers flooding his campaign since Saturday and more than 400 individual financial donations in 72 hours. He has passion, he has drive, he has a vision for America’s future – and the ability to lead us there.

We can not change Washington  unless we change who we send to Washington.   We all know it’s broken back there.  You see that reflected in the abysmally low approval ratings for DC politicians, hovering somewhere around 10%.  You also see it in the high rate of turnover. In the Senate alone, there have been 55 new Senators since the end of 2002. Long-time incumbents are passing the torch – ten more Senators are retiring this year, making room for new ideas and fresh faces.  That means a super-majority of the Senate will be turned over in just a decade.  Those new Senators are ready to change the way business is done in Washington – and that means changing the way things have “always been done.”  A primary – Orrin Hatch’s first in 36 years – now means that all Republican voters in Utah have a choice.


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7 Responses to “Doing the impossible: forcing Orrin Hatch to a primary”

  1. markg91359 Says:

    Go ahead and tilt this windmill, Holly. Here’s the facts:

    1. Hatch has scads more money to campaign on than Liljenquist could ever imagine in his wildest dreams.

    2. When Hatch came out of the convention this race was over. He has eight times the name recognition that Liljenquist has.

    3. Utah needs someone who is to the “right of Orrin Hatch” like we need a hole in the head.

    4. The Tea Party peaked back in 2010 and has been declining (slowly) since. If you doubt me, ask why Romney so easily beat Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and that woman from Minnesota.

    You’ve hitched yourself to a falling star here. Maybe there is something though you can take out of this campaign and use in the future?

  2. dansimp Says:

    I was never contacted by the Hatch team, wasn’t ‘persuaded’ to come to the Caucus by any outside influence, I’m only 33, and I spoke long and hard against Liljenquist at the caucus and almost everyone agreed with me. Here’s the thing. If Liljenquist was going to be serious about courting voters then maybe I would have gotten the call back that I was promised by John Liljenquist. Two days after having been selected as a state delegate, I was called by Dan’s campaign. I pointed out my biggest problems with Dan, and was promised a call back to speak to those concerns. No one ever called back. Frankly its insulting the way you fob off the newcomers to caucus night as if they aren’t the ‘real’ people of Utah, sickened by what happened to Bennett, and sick and tired of FreedomWorks, the tea party, and reactionary campaigning and voting.

    I still to this day cannot get a single Liljenquist campaign staffer or supporter to actually speak to my concerns. Its too easy to go on to the next person that you can attempt to blind with the dishonest campaign rhetoric than actually stand up to the questions given you.

  3. Ronald D. Hunt Says:

    “$6 million, 2-years of campaigning”

    Holly how much did Dick Army’s Freedom Works, and American’s for prosperity spend for Dan in that same time?, How many staffers did they hire to Dan’s benefit?

    “helped drive caucus turnout to record highs”

    So for once in Utah’s broken extremist favoring caucus system the outcome looks more like the real Utah electorate for once?

    So I guess this leads to another question, Do you favor any reforms to the caucus system to make it better reflect the Utah electorate? Or should we continue to let out of State money run the show?

  4. Novanglus Says:

    I was a Herrod volunteer and donated heavily before the Convention knowing that Chris would go down and come in 3rd, yet his principles and what he stood for deserved support. The Founders didn’t believe we needed term limits, in that the electorate would stay educated and vote them out based on record. But the Founders didn’t foresee CNN and millions in special interest money, and Hatch is the best example of why we need term limits.

    We lost a lot of good men from the Legislature in this Convention, Sumsion, Herrod, Liljenquist, Wimmer. I pray Utah will support it’s own good men in the future and not succumb to dinners, money and cowboy hats. Chalk one up for the Mainstream GOP, at least for now.

  5. Steve McQueen Says:

    So, here’s my question. By pointing out that Mitt Romney endorsed Hatch in September before there were any challengers, is Holly implying that Romney would have endorsed Dan had he known Dan was going to enter the race? I find that very hard to believe.

    First of all, there’s the fact that there were Romney ads airing in Utah well after Dan entered the race. But, here’s the biggest reason:

    Romney and FreedomWorks aren’t exactly friends. In September, when Romney officially endorsed Hatch, FreedomWorks was actively trying to take down the Romney campaign — they’d be organizing protests at Romney appearances, Matt Kibbe said that Mitt was unacceptable to them as the Republican nominee, etc. At the same time, Liljenquist was interviewing with FreedomWorks to beg for their support in his Senate campaign. A month or so later, he accepted an award from FreedomWorks. Then, he sat by as FreedomWorks dumped money into the race, knowing full well that he was the likely beneficiary.

    Liljenquist may say he supports Romney. But, if he’s as big a Romney guy as he says he is, he would have condemned FreedomWorks long before caucus night and the backlash that ensued. He certainly wouldn’t have actively sought their support.

  6. john roberts Says:

    Doing the impossible. A 36 year incumbent survives the Utah State Republican Convention and comes within a whisker of winning it all. In this current political environment, that is the miracle and not the fact that Dan got 40% plus a few votes.

  7. Jerome Borden Says:

    OK, thank you, Holly for explaining why my mailbox was flooded with Hatch endorsements six years after my last time as a delegate. I guess being as old as dirt got my on that mailing list.

    At my caucus, there were two test questions: Do you support Senator Hatch? (expected answer Yes) Do you support vouchers? (expected answer No).

    At the Convention: There were two gun groups with booths: NRA has been pounding us with pro-Hatch ads since the convention and claims he walks on water (so do some species of insects). NAGR or National Association for Gun Rights has come out on the anti-Hatch side. Gun Owners of America (GOA) was conspicuous by their absence at the Convention; however, they have published a comprehensive “laundry list” detailing Senator Hatch’s failings in the firearms rights arena including his votes for nominees such as AG Eric Holder. Well, the $6 Million plus didn’t push Orrin Hatch past the 60% threshold, so we get to discuss this until June 26th.

    About Freedom Works: This is a nationwide organization with members in all 50 states and some territories. Utah is well represented; so, when they sound out a note, a lot of eyes see it around here.

    Right now, a good positive statement about our current Senator is that he isn’t Feinstein, or Boxer. My biggest complaint is that he ranks Comity above Principal and the evidence of this are all those votes for Obama nominated appointees such as Eric Holder and Cass Sunstein or voting “Present” to duck the issue.

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