“Despite tea party PACs, Hatch cruises to easy win over Liljenquist”
Forget the results for a second. What I want to concentrate on is the slant of the reporting, in this case from Lee Davidson of the Salt Lake Tribune. To wit:
The tea party, big-spending PACs and challenger Dan Liljenquist failed Tuesday to force 78-year-old Orrin Hatch into retirement. The self-proclaimed “tough old bird” flew easily through the GOP primary, so now only Democrat Scott Howell stands between him and a record-shattering seventh term.
“I’m very energized by all this,” Hatch said as it became clear he would likely win by a wide margin. “This will give us an opportunity to help Mitt Romney to get the things that will really turn this country around.”
Hatch’s easy win shows how much Utah’s political landscape changed since two years ago, when the tea party managed to dump three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett at the state GOP convention.
Hatch avoided Bennett’s fate first by spending heavily to recruit supporters to attend political caucuses to run as state GOP delegates — and replace many of the tea partyers that doomed Bennett. It helped him to survive the convention to face a primary.
“I think what also helped us was Mitt Romney’s endorsement,” said Dave Hansen, Hatch’s campaign manager. “It wasn’t just Mitt saying, ‘I endorse Orrin.’ He was saying, ‘As president, I need Orrin Hatch in the Senate to help me.’ That made a difference” with Romney-loving Utahns.
Hatch’s heavy spending outpaced more than $1 million spent by the national FreedomWorks PAC, which had helped to defeat Bennett. (FreedomWorks spent even more than the $800,000 or so that Liljenquist’s campaign itself spent).
Groups supporting Hatch also spent heavily to help him. Such PACs, including FreedomPath and the National Rifle Association, spent $969,000 to help him.
First, let me say this: Liljenquist, with his talk of “revenue enhancements” and his prior political record, didn’t strike me — or a number of other conservatives / classical liberals — as a particularly spectacular candidate (unlike, say, a Ted Cruz in Texas). Second, Hatch had the support not only of the Romney camp, but also of people like Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, who were openly advocating for him. And finally — and this is key – a number of TEA Party groups supported Hatch, including the TEA Party Express.
So while FreedomWorks supported Liljenquist, it simply isn’t true that the TEA Party was defeated here — and I suspect the reporter know this.
Which raises the question: why is this story written in such a way that it suggests more of a TEA Party defeat than a Hatch victory?
And the answer, of course, is that the media — even if it is putatively “conservative” — is largely invested in beating back TEA Party influence.
But as I’ve said before, the TEA Party isn’t a party. It’s an attitude toward government and toward personal responsibility and individual sovereignty. And what this election shows me is that even though a well-funded TEA Party organization like FreedomWorks threw its weight behind Liljenquist, the people of Utah were more interested in the candidates and their policy positions than any label that was put on them.
Just because you slap “TEA Party candidate” in front of your name doesn’t guarantee you the support of those who support the ideas and attitudes of the TEA Party. In Utah, the more conservative of the two candidates won. And because of that, the TEA Party movement won.