Robert Gehrke scoops that Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, one of the GOP's proto-Tea Party stars, will not make the race against Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Chaffetz gave conservatives their best shot at taking out an incumbent senator in 2012, because the nomination would be fought out at a party convention that, in the age of the Tea Party, would be far to Hatch's right. As Phil Rucker's been reporting, Hatch was trying to prevent this by appealing personally to activists, but the fact that he could scare a strong challenger out of a winnable race -- well, what does that say for the Tea Party's ability to upend some senators in 2012?
It's bad, that's what it is. In Indiana, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is running against Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., with Tea Party support. But a conservative state senator is talking about jumping into the race, which would make it easier for Lugar to win. And in Maine, no serious challenge has emerged to Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-MN. This aspect of Tea Party activism -- primary challenges -- is fading.