Utah Senate: Hatch Finishes Off Challenger

Nathan L. Gonzales June 27, 2012 · 11:59 AM EDT

Orrin Hatch captured the GOP nomination, and a seventh term in the Senate, on Tuesday by defeating former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, 67 percent to 32 percent.

Hatch nearly secured the nomination outright at the April convention, but fell just short of 60 percent of the delegates necessary. That showing likely scared off potential outside groups who may have gotten involved if the longtime senator looked weaker.

Hatch’s victory puts him in stark contrast to his Senate colleague, Indiana’s Dick Lugar, who lost renomination earlier this year. Lugar and his team never seemed to fully grasp the seriousness of the race and the new political reality where longevity and experience are no longer considered assets.

On the other hand, Hatch and his team took his re-election very seriously from the day after his colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R), was defeated at the GOP convention in 2010. Hatch’s team understood Utah’s unique caucus, convention, and primary system, and Hatch was able to neutralize criticism of his record from the right.

Liljenquist was a good candidate and likely has a future in Utah politics. Six years is an eternity in politics, but Hatch has already said his seventh term would be his final term, leaving a wide open race in 2018.