Romney a sure thing, but other races in question Tuesday
June 24th, 2012
The Salt Lake Tribune / By Robert Gehrke
It’s about the safest bet around: Mitt Romney will win Utah’s Republican presidential primary Tuesday with the kind of dominant victory rarely seen outside of elections held in North Korea.
But while Utah’s last-in-the-nation presidential contest provides an inconsequential punctuation mark on the story of Romney’s nomination, down the ticket expensive and bitterly fought races will be decided.
Chief among them is Sen. Orrin Hatch’s bid to win his party’s nomination for a seventh term against challenger Dan Liljenquist. Hatch, already Utah’s longest-serving senator, has spent more than $10 million to retain his party’s nomination, obliterating every spending record for any Utah political race.
Hatch’s campaign manager Dave Hansen said that $10 million tally was everything Hatch had spent since his 2006 election, but acknowledged a big chunk of it was dedicated to winning the nomination.
"Senator Hatch doesn’t take any election lightly, but especially this one," Hansen said. "After 2010, we knew this was going to be a tough race. Fortunately, we had the resources to do the things we’ve needed to do, to be honest with you."
Liljenquist, who has spent more than $600,000, with about $400,000 of that coming from his own pocket, said he feels good about the campaign and has had good feedback from voters since he and Hatch met in their only debate earlier this month.
"We do event after event. We have hundreds of people out knocking on doors. We’ve put out 100,000 door hangers and 11,000 signs, and you know what? We’ve done it all through volunteers," Liljenquist said. "It’s been awesome. We’ve blanketed the state. We understand that the way we compete with money is with hard work."
Adam Brown, a political science professor at Brigham Young University, said when an elected official pours money into a race, it’s typically a sign that the incumbent is sensing a real threat.
"The fact that you see Orrin Hatch spending a lot shows that he is taking this challenge serious," Brown said. "The flip side is: It’s not clear how much spending actually accomplishes. … It’s really hard to say that there’s any real-world impact."