Moderate Republicans under attackPublished 10:30am Monday, May 7, 2012
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah is in a GOP primary battle because of the Tea Party’s anger at his willingness to occasionally compromise with Democrats to pass legislation. This is the case even though Hatch has nearly perfect grades from some of the most influential conservative groups in the country.
Hatch fell just short of 60 percent support at the state GOP convention and will now face former Utah legislator Dan Liljenquist in the June primary.
“It hasn’t been easy,” said Hatch to the Utah news media. “We’ve got outside groups coming in here that are just vicious and awful. They don’t tell the truth. That’s been really hard for me to take.”
FreedomWorks, the Tea Party super pac chaired by former Texas Congressman and North Dakota native Dick Armey, was quick to take some credit for Liljenquist’s showing at the Utah state GOP convention.
“These people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans,” Hatch said. “They’re radical libertarians and I’m doggone offended by it.”
Republican moderates all across the nation have come to the defense of Hatch.
“Sen. Hatch is the proverbial canary in the coal mine, a warning that acting as a statesman and supporting our crumbling government will be met by the Tea Party, gleefully chipping away at the foundation,” said Susan Barrett of South St. Paul in a letter to the editor in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“We elect our representatives not only to represent us, but to govern,” said Barrett. “The struggle between left and right should make it arduous to pass laws, but not impossible. Critical debate and principled positions are essential in determining the national direction. If Washington is unable or unwilling to set aside disagreements and occasionally stand together, our country will become directionless and fall apart.”
That doesn’t seem to bother Armey, right wing extremist Grover Norquist and others. As the cliché goes, it’s their way or the highway.
Hatch has, so far, avoided the fate of former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett who in 2010 came under fire from the Tea Party for working too cooperatively with Democrats. Bennett finished third at the state party convention and was replaced by Mike Lee, now a member of the U.S. Senate Tea Party Caucus.
Liljenquist sees himself in the same mold as Lee, a generation younger than Hatch and Bennett and similar to other younger Republican conservatives in the U.S. Senate such as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Letter to the editor writers similar to Barrett note there is little funding (campaign support) for moderate Republicans who want to raise taxes for needs such as improved care of wounded military veterans or increases in funding for regulators to investigate financial fraud.
Political analyst Steve Moore sees the right wing attacks on Hatch as another example of GOP political cannibalism.
“It’s not enough that the Republican party has sought to destroy itself with one power grab after another since the 2010 midterm elections,” said Moore. “Now they’re devouring members of their own party in an attempt by the extremist factions on the right to do the bidding of their masters.”
Tea Party Republicans have seen their popularity fade in recent national polls. They have, nonetheless, also targeted other moderate GOPers such as Sen. Richard Lugar who is up for reelection this year in the state of Indiana.
Indiana’s GOP primary is scheduled for May 8. Stay tuned.