Two top Utah politicians are starting to line up against each other in the state's Senate race, with longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch facing a likely challenge for the Republican nomination from two-term Rep. Jason Chaffetz -- and they're fighting it out via talk radio.
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Chaffetz, who first came to Congress after defeating incumbent GOP Rep. Chris Cannon, has been sending lots of signals that he could try to harness the Tea Party anti-incumbent fervor and turn it against Hatch. And in turn, Hatch was sent a serious message in 2010, when his fellow Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated at the state GOP convention, unable to even advance to a primary under the procedures used in the state.
It is important to note that the state convention system used in Utah -- in which a candidate can win a nomination outright by a vote of 60% of delegates at the state convention, without need for a primary -- can seriously empower the party's right-wing activist base. As such, the early phase of this fight is not fought out through a wider primary electorate, but through activists and a caucus system. Thus, targeted radio shows and the activities of activist groups will be the initial field of battle.
Now, Hatch and Chaffetz have hit the radio hustings.