While Jimmy Carter may not be in Washington anymore, a man that came to power with him will likely still be there in 2013.
Republican voters in Utah Tuesday handed six-term Senator Orrin Hatch another victory that will more likely than not put him pack in Washington until 2018 when the self-described “tough old bird” will be 84 years old.
Hatch bested his primary opponent Dan Liljenquist by a margin of 67-33 percent. Liljenquist, a former state senator and Bain Capital manager, didn’t even manage to capture his home county’s vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Senator Hatch said voters must have heard his message “loud and clear.”
"We need seasoned and experienced leadership in the critical Senate committees that will do what the Democrats have thus far not been willing or able to accomplish including a balanced budget, tax reform and repeal of Obamacare," Hatch said. "These things need to be handled and I intend to handle them,” he continued.
As readers of The New American know, Orrin Hatch demonstrated his much vaunted “leadership” by voting repeatedly to raise the federal debt ceiling and in favor of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), the unconstitutional, taxpayer-funded, nationalization of the assets and equity of several failed banks and mortgage lenders in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008.
In an excellent article published last year by The New American, Daniel Sayani described Hatch’s record and reputation since being elected to the Senate in 1976:
Hatch is generally considered an Establishment Republican, and has served in the Senate since 1977, known for his support of several unconstitutional and fiscally-reckless government programs. Aside from his support of TARP, Hatch has also supported big-government measures including the federal regulation of college football, even calling for federal hearings on the Bowl Championship Series, claiming that the tournaments are in violation of federal antitrust laws (he is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust), and that federal legislation is needed to regulate the college athletics industry, as well as a plethora of other bills indicative of his true ideology.
In 2004, Hatch introduced the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights (INDUCE) Act, which would nebulously outlaw any and all possible paraphernalia related to copyright infringement. Critics of the INDUCE Act say that the legislation would have granted unprecedented legal privilege to media companies, and under its draconian provisions, the internet and personal computers can be outlawed, violating the fundamental rights of the American people. He also supported further federal regulation of the internet when he introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits (COICA) Act in 2010, which would amend the United States Code so that the US Department of Justice would have the authority to exercise judicial power over specific websites or domain names found to be guilty of infringing activities. The bill would have given the federal government the authority to seize specific domain names at will, and earned the fierce opposition of constitutional advocates.
Apparently the GOP in Utah prefers big-government Establishment Republicans like Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney (Romney carried the day with over 90 percent of the vote) to those like Liljenquist, who despite his shortcomings, told this reporter earlier this year that he supprots repeal of the 17th Amendment and strengthening the sovereignty of states. “I’m a Tenth Amendment guy and a states’ rights guy,” Liljenquist said. “I will work to remove power from the federal government and return power to the states,” he added.
It looks now like the power will stay safely in the hands of a man who has held it for over 36 years and has repeatedly used it to diminish the sovereignty of the states and increase the size of the already over-burdensome federal behemoth.
Liljenquist was gracious in defeat, however. In a statement to The New American, Liljenquist said that he will throw his support behind Hatch’s campaign for a seventh term in the Senate.
"This race has been focused on the fiscal issues facing this country and I have appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with the voters of Utah,” Liljenquist said. “Senator Hatch has my support moving forward and I look forward to helping get this country back on track.“
Now somehow in favor of benefiting from Hatch’s seniority when just days ago that was the most compelling reason the former state senator could offer for sending him home, Liljenquist added, "We will not get kicked around by liberal states like New York and California.”
In what is no more surprising than an announcement that the sky is blue or the grass is green, Hatch came out and endorsed the GOP’s presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, hitching his wagon to that rising star. Romney reciprocated, endorsing Hatch over Liljenquist and some in the Hatch campaign reckon that really helped Hatch garner such a substantial majority Tuesday.
"I think what also helped us was Mitt Romney’s endorsement," said Dave Hansen, Hatch’s campaign manager. "It wasn’t just Mitt saying, ‘I endorse Orrin.’ He was saying, ‘As president, I need Orrin Hatch in the Senate to help me.’ That made a difference" with Utahns who obviously adore Romney, a graduate of Brigham Young University in Provo.
Mitt Romney wasn’t the only big-name Republican to support Hatch. Late last month, Sarah Palin also endorsed the incumbent senator.
Regardless of the endorsements, Hatch certainly was aware of the defeat suffered by his former colleague Bill Bennett in 2010. Bennett failed to curry the favor of tea-party types, relying instead on the largesse and the votes of the Establishment ring of the Republican big tent.
Hatch worked to win over the more conservative bloc of the party and almost convinced enough of them to vote for him in the state convention that he came just 32 votes from avoiding a primary election all together.
There was, however, one tea-party affiliated organization that poured lots of money (and put up lots of signs) in an effort to speed up Hatch’s retirement.
FreedomWorks, the fiscally conservative group founded by Bill Bennett and Dick Armey in 2004 spent over $750,000 trying to force Hatch into a primary vote. After successfully accomplishing that goal (albeit very narrowly), the group did little more than carry out a yard sign campaign in the days leading up to the primary election.
Several times during the campaign, Senator Hatch described FreedomWorks as “sleazy” and said their attack ads were “hard to take.”
In the end, all’s well that ends well, however. FreedomWorks is gone and Hatch is headed back to Capitol Hill.
Utah pollster Dan Jones reckons that FreedomWorks wouldn’t have had much success even if they had stayed more active in the campaign.
“(Hatch) started right out of the chute after the convention. The question was, would he get over 60 percent. He did. He did fine. But he had a tremendous campaign. I thought it was well run,” Jones told the Deseret News. “That's a major victory, any time you score that high.”
In that Deseret News article, Jones said FreedomWorks “didn't really come in. They took their message down to Texas. But I think Hatch would have won anyway.”
Finally, in what has to be a factor and a commentary on the power of incumbency, Orrin Hatch’s electoral margin matched his financial margin. According to published reports, Hatch raised and spent nearly $10 million on his campaign, while his challenger Liljenquist raised less than $800,000, half of which he donated to himself.
Hatch will face Democrat challenger Scott Howell in November.
Photo: With his wife Elaine by his side, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) speaks to his supporters after his primary win over former state senator, Dan Liljenquist, June 26, 2012, at an election party in Salt Lake City: AP Images