Hatch opponent: ‘Hatch is not a bad guy. But he is an old guy.’

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

We've seen campaigns play the age card before, but a new fundraising email from upstart Utah Democratic Senate candidate Scott Howell may take the cake.

Howell, who's challenging longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch this November, sent a fundraising email to supporters this week that warned voters of "the risk of an 80-year-old man taking office, only to retire or die before his term is through." (Hatch is 78.) "Look, Orrin Hatch is not a bad guy. But he is an old guy, and he's a lifer politician," Howell wrote in the email, which Daily Caller reporter Matt Lewis posted on Twitter.

Reached by phone, Hatch spokesman Matt Harakal said he hadn't seen the email, but remarked that Howell "sounds like a classy guy." Hatch campaign spokeswoman Evelyn Call called the statements "offensive."

"We are shocked at the level to which our opponent has sunk in this campaign and find his statements completely offensive," Call said. "This kind of behavior is what turns people off to election season, and Utah voters do not respond well to these kinds of tactics."

The 56-year-old Howell, a retired IBM executive, took on Hatch and lost in 2000; he has been trailing Hatch by more than 30 points in the polls this time around.

Howell told Yahoo News that he doesn't think pointing out Hatch's age is a form of age discrimination, but rather a way to emphasize his belief that the senator has held power for too long and to express his concern that Hatch might die in office. "My father passed away when he just turned 80 and my father-in-law pased away when he was 85, and that's just the reality...that's the circle of life." he said.

The email is not the first time Howell has cited Hatch's age against him. "We all know what happens at 78. We all know where an individual is. He could be my dad," Howell said in a meeting with the Deseret News editorial board in July. "I think a sitting senator who's been there 36 years is not doing a favor to anyone in the state of Utah nor to the country. He'll be 84 years old (at the end of his seventh term). Eighty-four. Think about that."