Ending months of speculation, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) held a news conference in Salt Lake City yesterday to announce that he will not challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) for the Republican nomination next year. Though Mr. Chaffetz was polling well against Sen. Hatch, the price of relinquishing a safe House seat at 44 years of age after only two terms in office was more than he wanted to risk.
Conventional political wisdom suggests that Chaffetz could easily garner enough Utah Republican Convention delegates to force a one-on-one primary against Utah’s senior senator, but the statewide election format would likely favor Hatch. Already raising $2.088 million for the new election and having $3.428 million in his campaign account, the senator would clearly dominate the political resource game. Chaffetz, by contrast, only raised $235,000 during the first six months of 2011, and had $227,000 cash-on-hand. For his 2010 congressional re-election campaign, Chaffetz raised only $647,194, but he was virtually unopposed for re-election. When he ousted six-term Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT-3) in 2008, he attracted only $443,396, and was out-spent 2:1. In that race, it was Chaffetz’s superior grassroots effort that swept him to victory over a veteran incumbent. In a statewide race, particularly against an incumbent who is running hard, such an approach is much more difficult.
Now that Jason Chaffetz won’t be in the Senate race, Orrin Hatch’s road to re-election has become much smoother.
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