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Tea Party group targets Orrin Hatch for defeat

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) speaks during a Tea Party Town Hall meeting February 8, 2011 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Conservative PAC FreedomWorks, a prominent Tea Party group chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is targeting Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch in the 2012 Senate race.

The group, arguing Hatch has insufficiently conservative economic views, is launching the so-called "Retire Orrin Hatch" campaign at Utah's Republican Convention on Saturday.

"It's clear that Senator Hatch is trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Tea Party movement by reinventing himself as a fiscal conservative," said Russ Walker, Vice President of Political and Grassroots Campaigns for FreedomWorks PAC, in a statement. "But his recent rhetoric and actions in favor of limited government simply do not erase decades of bad votes, costing taxpayers trillions of dollars. Indeed Hatch's body of work proves he cannot be trusted to consistently adhere to a fiscally conservative agenda, and possible primary challengers like Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-3, UT)give conservatives in Utah and around the country a great opportunity to trade up."

Despite Hatch's recent overtures to the Tea Party (he has made a handful of appearances at Tea Party-affiliated events), he could have reason to be worried: the six-term senator has in the past sided with Democrats with politically risky issues, and he recently saw the defeat of longtime Utah Senate colleague Bob Bennett (R), who was defeated in a Tea Party upset in the 2010 midterm elections. 

Walker said FreedomWorks would employ similar techniques against Hatch as it had in attempting to defeat Bennett.

"FreedomWorks PAC will utilize the same tactics in the 'Retire Hatch' campaign that proved most effective in our campaign against Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010," Walker added. "We will be spending a lot of time in Utah to talk to our activists and work with them on effective GOTV strategy. They have been hungry to replace Hatch for a while and we are here to answer their call."

FreedomWorks has not yet chosen an alternative candidate, though Rep. Jason Chaffetz and state Sen. Dan Liljenquist have indicated their interest.

A spokeswoman for Hatch told the Daily Caller that FreedomWorks' money could be better spent trying to defeat a Democrat: President Obama.

"If FreedomWorks is anxious to spend their money, why not put it into defeating Barack Obama in the Presidential race?" asked Hatch's campaign manager, Dave Hansen. "There is no other person, in recent history, who has been such a major affront to the Constitution and conservative values, than our current President."