Sen. Orrin Hatch will face a primary fight this summer from former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
Needing 60% of the delegates from the Utah Republican Convention, Sen. Orrin Hatch fell short by just 1% after a spirited morning filled with fiery speeches.
From the AP:
Hatch fell short of the nomination by fewer than 50 votes from the nearly 4,000 delegates at the party convention.
Despite the setback, Hatch holds a significant fundraising edge in what has become the stiffest challenge since his election to the Senate in 1976. The eventual Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite in November because of the GOP dominance in Utah.
Hatch urged that delegates endorse him so he can help repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and potentially lead the powerful Senate Finance Committee if Republicans regain control of the chamber in the November vote.
Hatch and Liljenquist advanced from the first round at the convention after Hatch got 57 percent of the vote and his challenger took 28 percent. In the second round, the incumbent earned 59.2 percent of the vote, just short of the 60 percent needed for the outright nomination. As a result, they will face each other in the June 26 primary.
Hatch told delegates before the final vote that experience can make all the difference in getting conservative priorities passed. "It will be my last six years in the U.S. Senate, but they'll be the best six years and the most critical six years of all," he said.
Liljenquis took issue with Hatch's assertion that his seniority was such a critical asset. He noted that Hatch had used a similar argument in previous elections and that the GOP would still be in good hands without Hatch's influence because Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho was next in line for serve as the next Finance Committee chairman if the Senate changes hands.
Hatch used an introduction video featuring Gov. Mitt Romney as he appealed to the party establishment in the heavily Republican state. Liljenquist stoked the passion of his voting base by declaring that "No senator is too big to fail."
The challenge to Hatch has been seen as a litmus test for the influence of the tea party movement who, in 2010 upended the careers of several establishment Republicans including Mike Castle in Delaware, Charlie Crist in Florida and Bob Bennett in Utah.