Editor's Note: 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. The winner will face off against Democrat Scott Howell, a former state senator, in November.
Last Friday, Hatch and Liljenquist debated on KSL's Doug Wright Show. The following is an excerpt of that debate. For the full transcript, see here.
Doug Wright: A warm welcome to the Doug Wright show today. Senator Hatch did win that coin toss which means he will get the first statement and the closing statement on the program. We will go back and forth with the questions. We'll give each of our candidates 90 seconds to respond and then we will have a 30-second rebuttal and that will flip back and forth. Here's your two minutes.
Orrin Hatch: Look, our country is at a crossroads. We're either going to go farther down or we're going to start picking up and going up. … So, I'm all over this country chatting and fighting for Mitt Romney. I believe he's the only person literally who can help bring this country right out of the midst and the doldrums it's in. But it's more than that, too. The reason I'm really running is not only to help Mitt but also to take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. I'm the Republican leader on the committee now. That's the committee where 60% of all of this, uh, bloated spending is going and frankly, that's where Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, that's where tax reform has to take place. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are the entitlement programs and we've got to get it under control or our kids and grandkids aren't going to have a very good future. And even some of the seniors aren't going to have such a good future if we don't get things under control financially and otherwise. … I believe this country is the greatest country in the world. I know it is. … We're going to pull out of the mess we're in and I'm going to be there to help us do it.
Dan Liljenquist: I am running for the United States Senate because it's time for new leaders in Washington, D.C. Senator Hatch and his generation of politicians have presided over the biggest run up in debt in the history of mankind. They have voted repeatedly to increase the debt ceiling. They voted to expand entitlements that we couldn't afford. They voted to spend every penny of the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. They have given away billions and billions in wasteful earmarks to their own buddies and their own campaign contributors over the years and we have pushed ourselves into this crisis. I am running, Senator, because you could be chair of the Senate Finance Committee not in spite of it. In the 18 years on that Senate Finance Committee you have voted yourself to expand entitlements by trillions of dollars we couldn't spend. Look, we have got to have new leaders in Washington who are actually going to have to live through the next 40 years of this country who will do more than just talk about reforming. … But it simply will not matter how well run Utah is, if we don't have people in Washington who will do what they've always said they're going to do and who will go back there and tackle these issues fearlessly and not just talk a good game when it's time for the next election. I will do that.
Doug Wright: (to Liljenquist) What makes a junior senator, and that's what you would be, feel like he can make any difference in six years, especially when we look at the track record of Mr. Mike Lee?
Dan Liljenquist: I look at my experience in the Utah legislature here. I took on issues that nobody had ever taken on: pensions and Medicaid. Now we talk about entitlement reform, we are literally the first state in the country to take an entitlement in Medicaid and pass legislation unanimously with my legislation last year to cap that program, to return it back to the state and that will save us $770 million in the first seven years alone and two and half billion in total funds within the first seven years. I have the record of actually doing something. … Do you trust somebody who's been there 36 years who hasn't done one thing to return back entitlement programs, or do you trust a young person who came in and was the first in the country to do that?
Doug Wright: (to Orrin Hatch) Senator Hatch, you've been in office for 36 years. Why would we think that a change would occur in the next six years? It didn't just start three and a half years ago, the problems with President Obama."
Orrin Hatch: First of all, we have to have Mitt Romney as President of the United States because it takes presidential leadership. Secondly, as Chairman of the Finance Committee where all of these problems are, I know what they are, I know how they can be handled, I've handled many in the past in various committees. … But to make a long story short, I believe that the only way we're going to get this under control is to get a really strong President and to rally our Republicans. Even the Democrats are impressed that I'm the leader on the Senate Finance Committee and we've gotten a lot done since I've been leading on the Senate Finance Committee. Three free trade agreements, and I can name a whole bunch of other things that we're in the process of doing. They wouldn't have passed if I hadn't been ranking on that particular committee.