The Utah Republican Convention did double duty as Groundhog Day on Saturday ensuring another round of politics in terms of the Senate race.
36-year veteran Senator Orrin Hatch came through two rounds of delegate voting with a majority, but not enough of one to walk away with the party nomination.
Hatch took 59.19% of the vote to Tea Party-backed challenger Dan Liljenquist’s 40.81%% thus ensuring a June primary for the man who has been representing Utah in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades.
A sixty percent majority was needed to lock up the nomination.
Out of the 9 candidates challenging Hatch for the spot Liljenquist has been the leader and clearly felt the momentum was behind him after the balloting was finished.
Some of the credit for that momentum has come from FreedomWorks who so far has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to oust Hatch in he same fashion as Bob Bennett two years ago.
However, many in the Beehive State have gotten behind Liljenquist who is branding himself in as part of young breed of conservatives in D.C. in the same vein as Mike Lee and Marco Rubio.
In contrast to Hatch’s experience, Liljenquist said “ Seniority does not matter unless you turn things around.” said Liljenquist who also touts his corporate experience with Bain in turning troubled companies around as an additional asset that he brings to the table. During his stump speech, Liljenquist promised to sponsor term limit legislation and also promised not to stay longer than three terms. “America stands at the cross roads between debt, deficits and decline.” he said.
Liljenquist expects the momentum to continue, noting that as people learn more about him, the more people have been moving to his camp.
“The people of Utah will see a new option they have not had in 36 years.” said Liljenquist, adding that the Hatch campaign outspent him by a ratio of 30 to 1 just for the convention.
Despite missing the nomination, if only by percentage points, Hatch stated that the day was a tremendous win for his campaign, adding that “…experience counts and the people of Utah understand that.
Hatch said that he is headed to a primary because the influence of what he called outside groups who he characterized as “ultra-liars”.
These groups said Hatch, have picked a few votes to attack out of some 12 thousand he has cast during his terms as Senator.
Some of the votes that have been attacked are the approvals of Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and Cass Sunstein and a vote for the National Defense Authorization Act.
Hatch however commented “I can justify every vote.”
As to the his potential to become chair of the Senate Finance Committee Hatch said that as President, Mitt Romney would need him in that seat, and if Romney is not elected “You are sure as heck going to want me.”
During his speech to the delegates Hatch said that in his last term, he would put Obamacare in his sights, continue to lead the fight for a Balanced Budget Amendment and return federal land to the State of Utah.
Shifting the attention away from himself, Hatch said that one of his biggest concerns is that now that he has a primary fight on his hands, he will be unable to lend his full support to other candidates.