Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Tuesday would not endorse Utah’s junior senator and tea party member Mike Lee for re-election, maintaining that Lee needs to prove himself first.
“I think Sen. Lee has plenty of time to reach out to fellow Utahns and to show he’s worthy of being re-elected,” Hatch told the Deseret News. “The best thing to do is do the job, really work hard, (and) stay away from extremes unless you’re absolutely sure you’re right.”
He criticized Lee’s approach to rollback Obamacare by forcing a government shutdown.
“The tactics were not the right tactics. It takes experience sometimes to make sure you can use the right tactics,” Hatch said of Lee’s attempts to attach language defunding Obamacare to a continuing resolution funding the government.
Hatch added that Lee and other Tea Party Republicans need to be “rehabilitated” after the government shutdown.
The senior senator from Utah supported the Senate deal that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling, and said earlier in October that the Tea Party strategy spearheaded by Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was doomed to fail.
Lee’s popularity has dropped in recent polls. A Brigham Young University poll released Oct. 9 found that 51 percent of Utahns have an unfavorable opinion of Lee. A Deseret News/KSL poll conducted Oct. 3 found that 35 percent of Utahns dissaproved of Lee’s job performance.