Grace Colucci, of Long Island, N.Y., protests at the NRSC headquarters on Monday with a group from FreedomWorks to demand that the NRSC stay out of Sen. Orrin Hatch's re-election campaign.
Walsh also noted that Hatch is vice chairman of the NRSC and lauded his role in trying to help the GOP win back Senate control. "Cornyn is proud to support him,” Walsh said, speaking about NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas).
FreedomWorks is already mobilizing activists on the ground and throughout the country around the opportunity to pick up another seat for their wing of the Republican Party. The group is using the same strategy it employed to help oust Bennett, recognized as one of the first electoral casualties of the tea party movement.
Bennett was one of five candidates that received the NRSC’s maximum donation in 2010 — more than $42,000 — but it was not enough to beat back conservative challenger Mike Lee, who earned more support at the convention to advance to the general election. Lee is now the state’s junior Senator.
Activists argue that Hatch is not conservative enough for the emerging small-government Republican electorate, despite a near 90 percent lifetime vote rating from the American Conservative Union. Instead, they are looking to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a two-term Congressman from the state’s 3rd district, who has repeatedly expressed interest in challenging Hatch.
At the state party’s convention earlier this month, FreedomWorks rented a booth featuring “Retire Hatch” signs. It plans to run TV and radio ads in the state encouraging its supporters to attend local caucuses next year and elect delegates to the convention who will vote Hatch out.
The NRSC policy is to support incumbents in all primary challenges. But given the committee’s support of more establishment types in open-seat GOP primaries, its backing might not help Hatch with a challenge from the grass roots.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.