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Tea party targeting Orrin Hatch

Over at the Huffington Post there's an article about how Sen. Orrin Hatch is one of three senior senators tea party activists are targeting for defeat during the 2012 election cycle.

It's clear the tea party — not even 2 years old — isn't going away anytime soon after huge success in last fall's congressional elections. Dozens of its favorite candidates – Republicans who champion limited government and sharply reduced spending – won House and Senate races. Now, the tea party is empowered and turning its attention to vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2012.

An interesting facet of the article is the comparison of Hatch's reaction to the tea party's growing momentum with those of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.

How the three GOP senators handle the tea party threat will go a long way to determining whether the outcome mirrors that of 2010. In Indiana, the tea party is organizing to unite behind one candidate who could challenge Lugar in a primary. In Maine, the plan is for a spring "Snowe Removal." In Utah, Hatch's efforts have begun to pay off, but the junior senator, Mike Lee, who replaced Sen. Robert Bennett in a tea party upset in 2010, has said he won't endorse Hatch for re-election.

In fairness to Hatch, the man is successfully forging ties with local and national tea party groups. However, he will continue to have a lot of questions to answer about his voting record — just as he did last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, when a question about his vote for the federal bank bailouts elicited jeers from the crowd.

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com twitter: @askargo