GOP candidates in the Tea Party crosshairs
The Tea Party movement is taking aim at Republican incumbents, including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. Olympia Snow of Maine, and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Will it succeed in unseating them?
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Many of Hatch’s alleged sins, as reeled off by Chaffetz and the Club for Growth, involve his support for such George W. Bush initiatives as TARP (the bank bailout), the Medicare prescription-drug benefit and the No Child Left Behind education act. He also backed earmarks (unfashionable these days), raising the debt ceiling (once considered a responsible vote to avoid default), and a 2007 extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Hatch was not an outlier on the children’s health program—17 GOP senators voted yes—but that was the least of it. Ten years earlier he had joined Ted Kennedy to create it.Skip to next paragraph
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Hatch, who declined a Daily Beast interview request, has apologized in a half-hearted way for his TARP vote; introduced a balanced-budget bill with fellow Utah Sen. Mike Lee; and insisted on spending cuts as a condition for raising the debt limit. “Anybody who says I’m no fiscal conservative is, I don’t want to be rude, but they’re lying,” Hatch told Hewitt. But Chocola says “Utah can do better.” FreedomWorks, which helped Lee oust Bennett in 2010, also anticipates being active in Utah this year. Meanwhile Lee, a Tea Party favorite, has said he won’t endorse Hatch.
One of Hatch’s selling points to voters is that he’s in line to chair the Finance Committee if Republicans take over the Senate—no small matter since the panel handles taxes, trade, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Chaffetz is not impressed. “If you’re not voting right,” he told me, “seniority doesn’t matter.”
He says Hatch was “swept in” with Jimmy Carter in 1976 after a campaign in which Hatch asked Utah voters, “What do you call an 18-year senator? You call him home.” Hatch already has been in office twice as long as that long-ago opponent and wants to stretch it to 42 years with a seventh term. “It’s time for a new generation to take a stab at these problems,” Chaffetz says.
Indiana is another hotbed of unrest. Most of the state’s GOP establishment has endorsed Mourdock and all three national groups are looking at the race. Lugar, facing what conservative “Hoosier Pundit” blogger Scott Fluhr habitually calls “Lugargeddon,” has removed his name from the DREAM Act to help children of illegal immigrants. He recently signed on to a bill to replace the income tax with the “fair tax,” a national sales tax.
How’s it playing? Russo says Lugar “continues to express his hostility” toward the Tea Party movement. FreedomWorks also expects to play in Indiana. The Club for Growth is still cogitating after what Chocola called “a disappointing first quarter” in Mourdock fundraising. “Mourdock needs to prove he can raise the resources to be competitive,” he says.