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“I would say it’s a reflection of how well they’ve run the campaign, how early they started, how much money they committed to it, and how poorly the Liljenquist campaign was run,” Hartley said. “I think a better-run campaign from a challenger could have made it closer, but not the campaign that was run against him this time.”
Hatch’s prospects brightened when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) announced in August that he would run for re-election rather than take on Hatch. That decision helped keep more outside groups, including the Club for Growth, from entering the fray. Such organizations played integral roles in helping insurgent challengers oust Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary and force Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into a GOP runoff.
Liljenquist did not enter the race until January, leaving him little time to escalate his cash flow and name recognition. Hatch debated him just once after the convention, and Liljenquist lacked the funds necessary to compete on the airwaves.
While Liljenquist gained a late endorsement from former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Hatch received early backing from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a surprising endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Romney, who will also grace today’s ballot, has sky-high popularity in Utah and appeared on Hatch’s behalf in radio and TV ads.
Hatch will be the overwhelming favorite to win re-election in November and has said his seventh term would be his last.