A recent poll showed that Hatch could face a difficult reelection campaign in 2012, with 48% of respondents saying they'd support former Governor Jon Huntsman in a hypothetical primary match-up, and 23% saying they'd back Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Hatch came in third at 21%.
Sal Russo said that for the time being the Tea Party Express, which backed Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle in 2010, would not oppose Hatch from the right. Russo hailed Hatch last week as "an original tea partier," and said "he has been talking about our issues from the beginning. Orrin is a Reagan conservative, as far as I'm concerned, and that's as good as it gets."
But Club For Growth is not so sure, and tweeted "Tea Party Express seems to like Hatch's record in support of TARP, earmarks, etc." last week, with a link to this statement from President Chris Chocola:
While Senator Hatch's activity in the 1976 presidential campaign is commendable, a lot can change in 35 years. Senator Hatch has a lower lifetime average on the Club for Growth's Congressional Scorecard than his former colleague Bob Bennett for a reason. Orrin Hatch has done some good things over the decades, but six term incumbents who vote for TARP, the Bridge to Nowhere, the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout, SCHIP, and higher taxes are quite clearly not 'as good as it gets.
"We have made no decision about the upcoming Utah Senate race, but when we do, our decision will be about improving the Senate in 2013, not 1977," Chocola said.
Tea Party Express tweeted in response: "@club4growth You misconstrued the comments that were printed in the press. Next time perhaps try calling us before a press release."
And, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, TPX chair Amy Kremer later "clarified" in response that Hatch is a "very kind and decent man ... 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."
The Tea Party Express did not immediately return TPM's request for comment.