Tea Party Express Loves Orrin Hatch: ‘An Original Tea Partier’

In some good news for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), he will not be targeted for defeat from the right by the Tea Party Express, which in 2010 supported such primary insurgents (and general election losers) as Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell. And far from attacking Hatch as a RINO, National Review reports, Hatch is being hailed as “an original tea partier” — apparently thanks to some old connections.

Just this past cycle in 2010, Hatch’s fellow Utah Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated for renomination at his state GOP convention, following an activist uprising motivated in part by his vote for the TARP bailout. Hatch — who also voted for TARP — has also had some weak polling and could face a challenge from Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

An important thing to note: While Tea Party Express, a project of Our Country Deserves Better PAC, is branded as an outsider organization, their chief strategist is Sal Russo. For his part, Russo is a longtime GOP strategist who has worked for Republican politicians such as Jack Kemp, George Pataki — and Orrin Hatch, with whom he has a long history.As National Review’s Robert Costa reported:

Sal Russo, the group’s chief strategist, tells National Review Online that the Tea Party Express will not tangle with Hatch in 2012. “In 1976, when I was scouring the country trying to find people to stand up for Ronald Reagan, there were not very many in the Republican party that would, especially with the president being Jerry Ford. Orrin Hatch, however, stood up and was our state chairman,” Russo explains. “He is somebody who has been willing to stand up for a long time.”

“I think he was an original tea partier,” Russo says. “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.”

In response, Hatch tweeted this note of gratitude:

Humbled to be called an “Original Tea Partier”. http://bit.ly/eYbWzX @OurCountryPAC @NRO #utpol