Soft-rock sensation – the Peter Lemongello of the World's Greatest Deliberative Boby – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tells NPR that he hates small-government types with the white-hot intensity of a 1,000 suns:
"These people are not conservatives. They're not Republicans," Hatch angrily responds. "They're radical libertarians and I'm doggone offended by it."
Then Hatch, a former boxer, turns combative. "I despise these people, and I'm not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth."
What's got Hatch's knickers in a twist? A serious primary challenge steeped in Tea Party candidates:
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch has spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate, including stints as chairman of the Judiciary and Labor committees. He's in line to become chairman of the Finance Committee if Republicans gain control of the Senate in November.
But back home in Utah, Hatch's quest for a seventh term is not the cakewalk he had in the last five elections, in which he didn't even have to run in primaries.
In fact, the Hatch campaign has spent more than $5.7 million in the past 15 months just to make sure he'll survive the Utah Republican nominating convention on April 21.
"We've got to have new leaders in Washington if we're going to change the direction of this country," says Dan Liljenquist, a former Utah state senator and business consultant, considered the biggest threat to Hatch among nine GOP challengers.
In 2010, similar forces dispatched another long-time Beehive State glad-hander, Robert Bennett, which led to the horrors of electing Mike Lee, who along with Rand Paul, is leading the charge for lower spending in the Senate.
The Dick Armey-led group FreedomWorks has pumped $670,000 into attacks on Hatch and a bunch of other "outside money" has targeted Hatch. But before you shed a tear for "My God is Love" composer, note that he's outspending his rivals six to one.
This sounds like a good time for folks to check out The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, by Matt Welch and me. In our book—called "the up-to-date statement of libertarianism" by Tyler Cowen—we specifically discuss how change will come to electoral politics. A huge part of that is precisely what's playing out in Utah. Libertarians need to stop going along with a feckless GOP that takes limited-government partisans for granted; they need to start ransoming their votes for candidates such as Rand Paul and Mike Lee who will actually work to deliver lower spending and less government intervention into everything under the sun.
To the extent that Hatch—who supported Medicare Part D and TARP and various other bailouts, and never met a debt-ceiling increase he didn't like until last year—is now talking about cutting government by co-sponsoring a cut, cap, and balance law with Lee, it isn't because he's always been this way. It's because he's feeling the heat from those "radical libertarians" who are starting to tell pols to go small or go home.
Here's Hatch talking at a town meeting in Utah, complaining that libertarians and Birchers make up about 20 percent to 25 percent of the Utah GOP, that they canned Bob Bennett last time around, and…that he's "got a lot of libertarian" in him. And that he's "always been friends with and friendly with the John Birch Society." Hmmm… (on both counts).
Check it out: