UT Senate: Chaffetz will not run against Hatch

Count me among the people that are disappointed that Rep. Jason Chaffetz will not challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch in the Republican primary next year:

In bowing out of a U.S. Senate clash with Orrin Hatch on Monday, Jason Chaffetz avoided what he said would be a “multimillion-dollar bloodbath,” but predicts Hatch is not in the clear.

“I think he’s vulnerable,” Chaffetz said. “He’s got a major task ahead of him in convincing Utahns he’s still the right guy for that job. I think he’s got a serious threat of [Democratic Rep.] Jim Matheson running against him, a serious campaign, and another insurgent campaign on the Republican side.”

Chaffetz ended months of speculation Monday, announcing that he would pass on a Senate bid and instead seek re-election to his House seat.

“If I were to run an interparty battle it would be a multimillion-dollar bloodbath,” Chaffetz said Monday. “I don’t think that’s necessarily in my best interests. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our party, the nation or our state.”

It looked likely that Chaffetz was going to challenge Hatch. He talked like a candidate and received nudges from grassroots activists and national groups, including the Club for Growth. In fact, poll commissioned by the Club for Growth indicated that Chaffetz would be off to a solid start.

But Hatch has been able to convince Utah-based tea party groups that he is their ally, despite voting for a bloated budgets, TARP and expansion of Medicare. Hatch also picked up endorsements from prominent conservative talk show hosts, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

This doesn’t mean that Hatch won’t receive a primary challenger, but Chaffetz may have been the best shot to knock him off. And while Utah is a very “red” state, a poll released earlier this month show that Rep. Jim Matheson, a conservative Democrat, was in a dead heat against Hatch. That may have had something to do with Chaffetz’s decision.


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