Tea Party Express Might Challenge Hatch After All

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 28 2011 9:15 AM

Tea Party Express Might Challenge Hatch After All

Yesterday, Tea Party Express political guru Sal Russo said that he wasn't interested in challenging Orrin Hatch in the 2012 GOP primary. Tea Party Express Amy Kremer sent me a lengthy response to that, walking it back.

"There is great excitement and energy amongst Utah tea party activists about the prospects for a constitutional conservative candidate to step forward and offer an alternative to Senator Hatch in 2012," said Kremer. "If and when that should happen, we here at the Tea Party Express will evaluate those candidates. Our evaluation process will be identical to that which propelled us to support Mike Lee’s challenge to Utah’s other establishment Senator, Robert Bennett."

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Russo is the Republican strategist who put together the PAC, Our Country Deserves Better, that spawned the Tea Party Express. Kremer is the Tea Party activist who left the more grassroots Tea Party Patriots to run the Express, and turn it into a powerhouse that's more credible with activists. The seams don't often show like this. I don't think TPE's endorsement is needed to power a Hatch challenger, but let's remember how this stuff works -- Republicans are put on their best behavior by their trembling fear of Tea Party challenges.

The whole statement:

In regards to Sal Russo’s comments, what Mr. Russo was getting at is that we will continue to approach each race with a sense of the greater perspective and understand the Reagan principle that our 20% enemy is still 80% our friend. As such we wouldn't want to put someone like Sen. Hatch on a par with the leading big-government liberals in the chamber lest we dilute the importance of just how destructive the agendas of such Senators are to the Founders' vision of small and limited government.   

While Senator Orrin Hatch is certainly a very kind and decent man who is well-liked by his peers, he has also been a politician who has at times gone with the will of the entrenched political establishment instead of the will of the voters of his state.    

There is great excitement and energy amongst Utah tea party activists about the prospects for a constitutional conservative candidate to step forward and offer an alternative to Senator Hatch in 2012.  If and when that should happen, we here at the Tea Party Express will evaluate those candidates.    

Our evaluation process will be identical to that which propelled us to support Mike Lee’s challenge to Utah’s other establishment Senator, Robert Bennett.  And one can expect us to continue to proudly support constitutional conservative challengers just as we’ve already done with Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Christine O’Donnell.  

These are the candidates we here at the Tea Party Express support – these are the kinds of candidates that the people of this great tea party movement support.    

The Tea Party Express remains committed to being a principled voice for the Tea Party movement and striving for maximum effectiveness in advancing the interests of Tea Party members across America.  Getting our government to return to the small-government and constitutional principles that animate this movement will continue to be our sole charge.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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