Tag Archives: Chris Cannon

Utah’s Chaffetz Won’t Run

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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Rep. Chaffetz Moving Closer to Utah Senate Run

It appears virtually certain that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) will challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for the Republican Senate nomination next year and officially announce his campaign after Labor Day. Chaffetz has been considering the race for months. It will be the second time that he attempts to unseat a Republican incumbent. In 2008, he defeated six-term Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT-3) to obtain the congressional district he currently represents.

The key to the race, as it was for Sen. Mike Lee when he defeated then-Sen. Bob Bennett during the 2010 GOP nominating process, is the state Republican convention. Utah is one of the few states where party convention voting can actually determine a nomination. If a candidate receives 60 percent of the delegate vote, then that candidate is officially nominated. Primaries can occur if two candidates, and only two, fall between 40 and 59 percent of convention balloting. Should that happen, then the two qualifying candidates move to the actual primary election.

The state convention delegates, who number approximately 3,500, are chosen at local county caucuses. It was at this level of the process where Sen. Bennett actually met his demise. Statistics show that an average of 30,000 people historically attend the local caucuses. In 2010, largely motivated by the anti-Bennett and Tea Party movement, more than 75,000 people participated. Once these county voters chose their state delegate slates, Bennett’s fate was sealed. He ended his career failing to even qualify for the primary ballot.

Sen. Hatch may be in a different position, mostly because he is learning from Bennett’s experience. He will have his own operation to turn out supporters for the county caucus meetings with the strategy of obtaining enough votes to force a primary. It is already clear that Chaffetz has the inside track to placing first at the state convention, but it is always difficult to obtain 60 percent in any voting universe. Hatch merely must reach 40 percent, which is a reasonable goal. Early polling suggests that the senator still enjoys strength in a primary voting situation, and he certainly is the superior fundraiser. Therefore, if Chaffetz is to wrest the nomination away from Hatch, he will almost certainly do so at the convention.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.