Hatch and his supporters have repeatedly warned Utah conservatives that if he loses his seat, Snowe, a moderate, would be the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees taxes, Social Security and Medicare.
Hatch will continue to try to use his seniority on the Finance Committee to his advantage. If Republicans regain the majority in the Senate, he would become the committee's chair.
But the argument may lose whatever resonance it once had without the threat of Snowe taking over. None of the other Republicans on the committee can be painted with the same moderate brush.
For his part, Hatch's main challenger from the right, state Sen. Dan Liljenquist is already using the Snowe news to his advantage.
"I think Olympia Snowe recognizes we need a new generation of leaders in this country," Liljenquist said. "The United States Senate is and always has been larger than one person."