Tea Party Express Won't Go After Orrin Hatch

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 27 2011 3:00 PM

Tea Party Express Won't Go After Orrin Hatch

Robert Costa asks the question of Sal Russo , the political guru of the PAC, and a Reaganite since the 1960s.

Sal Russo, the group’s chief strategist, tells National Review Online that the Tea Party Express will not tangle with Hatch in 2012. "In 1976, when I was scouring the country trying to find people to stand up for Ronald Reagan, there were not very many in the Republican party that would, especially with the president being Jerry Ford. Orrin Hatch, however, stood up and was our state chairman," Russo explains. "He is somebody who has been willing to stand up for a long time."

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To understand how much this matters, you have to understand Utah. The state nominates candidates in a two-stage process, convention followed by primary. Only around 4000 activists get to vote at the convention. Only the top two candidates at the convention proceed to the primary.

In the case of Bob Bennett, the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks got on the ground early. The Tea Party Express only feinted at the race on March 29 , five weeks ahead of the convention, and Jim DeMint only endorsed Mike Lee for the primary on the day of the convention. It's good for Hatch to get the TPE off his back but it doesn't solve his problems.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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