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Politics

A Tea Party Divide In Utah

March 7, 2011

That Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is working to improve his image among Tea Partiers in Utah is no secret. Most recently, he voted against a continuing resolution that would avoid a government shutdown, getting to the right of even Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on the issue.

But his aggressive outreach to the Tea Party comes as some in the movement remain staunchly dissatisfied with him, which suggests we'll see a growing divide among Tea Partiers in Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Hatch recently courted two Tea Party activists at CPAC in Washington. While one was unimpressed, the other ended up accepting a job on Hatch's campaign recruiting delegates who will vote at the statewide convention next year. Hatch's campaign is paying organizers $2,500 per month to court support among delegates.

As my colleague Julie Sobel has previously reported, divisions have been laid bare even within the Tea Party Express when it comes to Hatch. And as the Tribune notes, Hatch's campaign has hired Evelyn Call and Julian Babbitt, who was chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Utah, a move that surprised the Tea Party community.

If Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) gets in the race, we may begin to see a greater share of Tea Party support coalesce around him. Hatch may prove to be an overall tough sell to the lion's share of Tea Partiers in the long term, especially if he attracts a more conservative opponent. Right now -- with no official alternative in the race -- may be his best opportunity to seal up what support he can.

But Hatch has to be careful, as his pitch does not come without the risk of a backlash from Tea Partiers who may come to resent him even more over time for his attempts to corral their support.

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