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…..an 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.