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The Tea Party Express announced Thursday that it would not campaign against Sen. Orrin Hatch, but the Club for Growth is not letting the six-term Utah Republican off the hook that easily.

Tea Party Express chief strategist Sal Russo told the National Review that Hatch is an “original tea partyer,” having supported Ronald Reagan early in his 1976 presidential campaign.

But Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, a former Congressman, took issue with that reasoning and said his group would not follow the tea party’s lead.
“While Senator Hatch’s activity in the 1976 presidential campaign is commendable, a lot can change in 35 years,” Chocola said in a statement. “Senator Hatch has a lower lifetime average on the Club for Growth’s Congressional Scorecard than his former colleague Bob Bennett for a reason. … Orrin Hatch has done some good things over the decades, but six term incumbents who vote for [the Troubled Asset Relief Program], the Bridge to Nowhere, the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout, [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program], and higher taxes are quite clearly not ‘as good as it gets.’”

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) successfully ousted former Sen. Bob Bennett at the state Republican convention last year, partly with the help of groups such as the Club for Growth, which worked against the incumbent. Bennett finished third at the convention behind Lee and Tim Bridgewater.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has said he is considering a challenge to Hatch but has yet to make a final decision.

Roll Call Politics rates this race Safe Republican.

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