Are we witnessing a Tea Party surge in Election 2012?
In the Utah Republican primary on Tuesday, an upstart Tea Party candidate will seek to usurp senior Senator Orrin Hatch, yet another battle within the GOP pitting a mainstream conservative against the further right Tea Party.
Hatch, 78, will battle former state Senator Dan Liljenquist for the GOP nomination for Senate in the November general election. Already this primary season, we have seen Tea Partiers exert control in elections across the nation. In the Indiana Republican primary two months ago, Tea Partier Richard Mourdock defeated veteran Senator Dick Lugar. In the Texas Republican primary last month, Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz forced an August runoff election with GOP establishment candidate David Dewhurst.
Are these inner squabbles prologue to a wider crimson wave of Tea Party support that could sweep the Republicans in November?
Utah will be our next case study, but it looks more favorable this time around for the incumbent.
The veteran Senator Hatch has spent close to $10 million on his race – $5 million leading up to Utah’s state Republican convention in April, where 10 candidates, including Hatch, were whittled down to the top two finishers through multiple rounds of voting. Hatch also has received support from presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is very popular in the state because of his Mormon roots and his work with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lak City.
The state will also be holding it's Republican presidential primary, where Romney is on the ticket with Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Romney is favored to win in Utah.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Links for finding your polling place are included at the close of this article.
PolicyMic will be covering the Utah GOP primaries LIVE. Hit “Refresh” for constant updates on this top race and more. All times in EDT.
11:39 pm With 36% reporting Hatch leads Liljenquist 67.3% to 32.7%.
11:06 pm 27.01% of precincts are now reporting. Hatch still holds his impressive lead with 68.29%.
11:02 pm Hatch wins Utah. Hatch will face Democratic Senator Bennett in November.
11:00 pm 13.06% reporting and the percentages stay relatively the same. Hatch leads 69.5% and has collected 37,876 to Liljenquist's 16,975.
10:56 pm Hatch's lead is not going anywhere. With 5.5% counted he still leads Lilgenquist now with 69.1%.
10:38 pm With 3.3% reporting Hatch still leads 70% to 30%.
10:25 pm Hatch's lead continues to grow: he currently leads Lilgenquit 70% to 30%.
10:10 pm As more results come in (1.75% reporting) Hatch's lead is getting bigger: Hatch leads 69.92% to 30.08%.
10:04 pm With .14% of votes counted Hatch leads Lilgenquist 51.91% to 48.09%.
9:39 pm The New York Times says Hatch's saving grace in his election may be the fact that Utah voters are not as angry as they were in 2010, the year thy ousted Senator Rober F. Bennett in a party convention. Recent poll numbers should Hatch ahead of Liljenquist by a doubl-digit lead. Hatch was also able to raise $10 million this election cycle in comparison to Liljenquist's $800,000. Hatch also received an endorsement from Mitt Romney.
8:59 pm If Hatch wins tonight he will have a shot at his seventh term. The winner of tonight's race will face-off in November against Democratic nominee Scott Howell.
8:45 pm: Hatch's race is the premier event as several states hold primaries Tuesday. Among them is New York, where 82-year-old Rep. Charlie Rangel is running for a 22nd term, the first time he's faced voters since the House censured him 18 months ago for failing to pay all his taxes and for filing misleading financial disclosure statements.
8:22 pm: Orrin Hatch Will Win, at least that's what people in Utah are thinking. Here are some notes: On Tuesday, Utah voters will head to the polls to vote in their state's primary, and although Mitt Romney has already virtually secured the GOP nomination, all eyes will be on Sen. Orrin Hatch, who faces a stiff competition from Tea Party challenger Dan Liljenquist. The contest is seen as a bellweather to gauge the Tea Party's strength, and a Tea Party upset would throw the GOP establishment into chaos. I asked Utah resident Ty Markham to explain the significance of the Hatch election and predict the results of the primary contest. Below is her response.
Jake Horowitz (JH): Discuss the meaning of Senator Orrin Hatch's primary battle with Tea Party candidate Liljenquist. Who do you predict will win?
Ty Markham (TM): The primary buzz is really only centered on whether Sen. Orrin Hatch will be ousted, like Sen. Bob Bennett was two years ago. It seems to be the only race that has garnered media attention here in Utah. After a long-sought-after debate by his primary opponent, Lillenquist, Hatch dropped 10 points in the polls.
Whether many will bother to get to the polls will depend upon their level of Tea Party fervor, or level of political activism, or perhaps whether they took their priesthood leaders seriously a few weeks ago when the letter was read from all LDS pulpits admonishing the saints to participate in caucuses and to get out and vote in upcoming primaries and general election.
How many will bother to do the first two is anyone's guess, but surely, Mormons will get the message that they should not shirk their civic duties. This may mean that they will pay more attention to the issues, to the candidates, and actually vote. Or it may mean that many will simply go through the motions without doing their homework, and merely mark the box next to "Straight Party" ticket, which in Utah, usually means the red "R."
This is not to say that there are no Mormon progressives in Utah. There are many who prefer to stay in the closet, but who, nonetheless, would not miss a chance to cast their ballot (in secret, of course). My guess is that, if you stopped a representative sample of people on the street and asked if they remembered that today is the primary election, the vast majority would admit (or not) that they didn't.
Utah is one of those states where conservatives can afford to be complacent about voting because their candidate has historically been a 'shoe-in'. And where progressives are discouraged from making the effort because their candidate seems always to lose. I keep wondering if enough complacent conservatives will provide enough hope in progressives that they will turn out in great numbers and turn the tables in Utah.
5:30 pm: Ron Paul Supporters Seek to Make An Impact in Utah:
Ron Paul supporters are seeking to make a meaningful impact in Tuesday's primaries. Ron Paul support website dailypaul.com urged Utah Paul supporters to vote not just for the Texas congressman, but also for a range of other candidates down the ballot, including Liljenquist.
Here's a look at their proposed ballot:
5 pm: Romney Favored to Win in Utah: Mitt Romney is the favorite to win Utah's GOP presidential primary.
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee faces Republican challengers Ron Paul and Fred Karger in Tuesday's election.
Romney, a Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University who oversaw the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is a hugely popular figure in Utah, where more than 60% of residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Romney won 90% of the vote in Utah's 2008 presidential primary.
12 pm: Hatch Confident in Victory: Hatch came out with the most votes over nine challengers at the April convention but narrowly fell short of the 60% needed to win the party nomination outright and avoid the primary. Still, he isn’t worried about Liljenquist.
"We feel very confident that the campaign has been run and our message has gotten out to the voters in the state and they are supportive of the senator," Hatch spokesman Dave Hansen said, citing polls that showed the incumbent leading handily going into Tuesday's election.
Heavily Republican Utah last elected a Democrat to the Senate more than four decades ago, so the victor in the state's Republican Party contest is usually considered the presumptive winner of the general election in November.
Background: The Republican primary is exclusive to registered Republicans. The Democratic Party’s state convention did not result in any nominee candidate run-offs relative to Southern Utah, so there is no Democratic Party primary here this year; the party’s nominees are already chosen for the November ballot. The parties Libertarian, Constitution, Americans Elect, and those registered “unaffiliated,” do not have a primary and are excluded from the GOP primary.
Hatch vs. Liljenquist: The Tea Party candidate was not able to capitalize on his relatively strong performance at the state GOP convention. He was outspent by Hatch by a margin of more than 10 to 1. His fundraising lagged far behind Hatch’s as well, with Hatch raising almost $10 million and Liljenquist raising almost $800,000, including $400,000 from Liljenquist himself, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.