It was considered a sign of how far rightward the Tea Party has pushed Republicans that Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch--the kind of guy who usually has terms like "staunch conservative" stuck in front of his name--faced the threat of a primary challenge from the right. Rep. Jason Chaffetz had been working toward a run against Hatch, claiming "most Utahans want a change" and getting endorsements, Politico's David Cantanese notes, like the Club for Growth. But the Salt Lake Tribune's Robert Gehrke reported Monday that Chaffetz is backing down.
Gehrke explains why Chaffetz blinked, despite Hatch's trouble in trying to woo Tea Partiers:
On one hand, Hatch is widely seen as vulnerable to a conservative challenger and Chaffetz is well-known and liked among Utah's tea party base.However, Chaffetz was a leading spokesman for House conservatives during the recent debt ceiling debate and sponsor of the Cut, Cap and Balance proposal, which advocated slashing government spending and requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment.He would have to give up that rising stature in the House to go against a senior senator in Hatch, who has a decisive fund-raising advantage and has been working feverishly for several months to repair relationships in Utah.
An August poll showed Hatch beating Chaffetz by 49 percent to 39 percent among Republican primary voters, but Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad says, "That’s a solid showing for the incumbent but likely not strong enough to scare other potential conservative challengers." Slate's Dave Weigel notes there's still time for a Republican businessman to jump in the race.