By any objective analysis, he doesn't have a chance, but Orrin Hatch's decision to run for president represents a new step for the state of Utah. He is the first serious candidate, with genuine nationwide name recognition, the state has ever known.
By now, Utah is getting used to the limelight. Usually, however, the attention has been in the athletic realm, whether in connection with the NBA finals or the 2002 Olympics. The political spotlight casts a little different glow.This page has a long tradition of not endorsing specific candidates, and that won't change regardless of how viable Hatch's campaign becomes. But it is appropriate to wish Utah's senior senator good luck.
Hatch has a reputation for honesty and integrity, which is becoming too rare in politics these days. It is a commodity all presidential candidates seem to be emphasizing as they try to distance themselves from President Clinton.
Hatch has made effort to build a national presence in recent years and has become a fixture on weekend television talk shows in Washington. He also has built a reputation for pragmatism and compromise. This has earned him respect and trust from such notable political foes as Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton. It also has angered certain factions within the Republican Party.
These are some of the issues Hatch has to concern himself with as he tries to position himself ahead of the other dozen or so GOP candidates. Utah's special culture and its dominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also offer unique aspects to this campaign. Despite impressive growth, the church still is little understood by many Americans.
Presidential politics can become nasty, and the nastiness usually is more pronounced when candidates are vying for their own party's nomination than when they eventually face the other party's candidate. The more viable Hatch's campaign becomes, the more scrutiny the rest of the nation is bound to give Utah, its citizens and its culture.
Stranger things have happened. Jimmy Carter, for example, was a political unknown when he announced his candidacy. Next year promises to be an interesting political season. Hatch's decision to enter the race makes it that much more interesting.