Opinion: Orrin Hatch not conservative enough for ‘tea party’ group

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Orrin Hatch in 1976 while campaigning against longtime incumbent Frank Moss said, ‘What do you call a senator who’s served in office for 18 years? You call him home.’

The people of Utah listened to Hatch, sent Moss home, and elected the Republican to Senate. Thirty-five years later a ‘tea party’ group is saying that it’s Hatch who has not only spent too much time in Congress, but over the years he has turned less conservative than the group would prefer.

‘The bottom line is Hatch doesn’t represent the state of Utah,’ Russ Walker, vice president of political and grass-roots campaigns for FreedomWorks PAC, said in a statement. ‘The state of Utah is far more fiscally conservative than Orrin Hatch is.’

That is not a new sentiment. A little more than a year ago, a Salt Lake Tribune poll showed signs of a crack in Hatch’s popularity. The poll, which the paper reported in May 2010, found that 51% of respondents said they would elect someone other than Hatch if he were up for reelection that year, while only 35% would support him.

FreedomWorks is launching a “Retire Orrin Hatch” campaign at the Utah Republican Convention this Saturday in Salt Lake City.

‘It’s clear that Sen. Hatch is trying to capitalize on the popularity of the tea party movement by reinventing himself as a fiscal conservative,’ Walker explained, ‘but his recent rhetoric and actions in favor of limited government simply do not erase decades of bad votes, costing taxpayers trillions of dollars. Indeed Hatch’s body of work proves he cannot be trusted to consistently adhere to a fiscally conservative agenda, and possible primary challengers like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-3, UT) give conservatives in Utah and around the country a great opportunity to trade up.’

Sen. Hatch’s campaign manager argued that the tea party group is fighting the wrong man; their angst should be aimed at President Obama. ‘If FreedomWorks is anxious to spend their money, why not put it into defeating Barack Obama in the presidential race?’ Hatch’s campaign manager, Dave Hansen told the conservative blog The Daily Caller. ‘There is no other person, in recent history, who has been such a major affront to the Constitution and conservative values than our current president.’

Hansen added that Hatch has a ’90% conservative rating from the American Conservative Union, scores a 97% rating from Club for Growth in the last Congress, and received the highest ranking in Congress by the National Taxpayers Union.”

[Correction and update 1:45 p.m.: Club for Growth Communications Director Barney Keller wrote in to correct the paragraph above, stating that the group gave Hatch a 97% rating in 2010, not a perfect 100% as Mr. Hansen was reported as saying.

‘I wanted to note for you that while Sen. Hatch did, in fact, receive a 97% (not 100%) on our scorecard for 2010, he has a 74% lifetime rating, placing him towards the bottom of Republicans serving in the Senate in 2010,’ Keller wrote in an email.

‘I would also note that we have urged Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah to run in the primary against Sen. Hatch,’ Keller added, providing a link to a statement the group released earlier this month that quotes Club for Growth President Chris Chocola as saying: ‘If Congressman Chaffetz decides to run for the U.S. Senate, he will have the full support of the Club for Growth PAC and our 55,000 members.”]


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-- Tony Pierce