Sarah Palin weighed in on the Utah Senate race during an interview Tuesday night and took a side. But instead of rallying around the Republican tea party challenger, as she has in other primary campaigns, the former Alaska governor endorsed longtime senator Orrin Hatch.
"I want him to win," Palin told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, saying she joined with other conservatives "who would like to see Mr. Balanced Budget return to Washington."
Watch an excerpt of Palin's appearance below:
The endorsement represents a departure from Palin's history of backing anti-establishment tea party outsiders like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada, both of whom ran for statewide office in 2010. Hatch has been picking up support from high-profile conservatives in advance of the runoff election on June 26, as concerns about Dan Liljenquist's perceived weaknesses grow. Liljenquist, 37, served briefly in the Utah state Senate before stepping down in December 2011 to focus on the U.S. Senate race.
Hatch is seeking his seventh term in the U.S. Senate. On the campaign trail, he touts the fact that he could chair the Senate Finance Committee if Republicans take control of the Senate in the fall elections.
"I'm deeply honored by Governor Palin's endorsement," Hatch said in a statement early Wednesday morning. "There are few as committed to the cause of liberty and the ideals that have made this nation great as Sarah Palin."
Palin was an influential figure in the 2010 midterm elections and has backed the victors in two significant primary contests so far this year, with wins by tea party favorite Richard Mourdock over Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana and outsider Deb Fischer in Nebraska.
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