Palin Endorsed the Wrong Candidate in Utah
posted at 12:54 pm on May 23, 2012 by Dustin Siggins
On last night’s “Greta,” Sarah Palin endorsed sitting Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in his primary against challenger Dan Liljenquist. Given that Hatch is the more moderate and far more establishment person in the race, will this hurt Palin’s standing among conservatives? She is, after all, generally viewed as the anti-establishment endorser, even though her record doesn’t necessarily speak to that. In 2010, for example, she endorsed establishment-supported Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) over libertarian-minded Ovide Lamontagne in the New Hampshire Republican primary race for the Senate. She also endorsed John McCain in his primary race in 2010, though obviously that may have been a gratitude endorsement rather than a policy-oriented substantive one. This year she voted for, and spoke publicly favorably of, uber-establishment (and often times moderate) candidate Newt Gingrich in the 2012 Presidential primary race.
Note: Ayotte’s record both prior to and after her election in 2010 has been a solidly conservative one, but Ovide was widely considered the more conservative candidate among grassroots groups in New Hampshire and across the country.
This is not going to make me popular on this site, but I think Palin erred here. While it probably won’t cost her support among her core backers, it does provide more ammunition for critics who think she’s more about media attention than solving the nation’s budget and other problems. And while Ed Morrissey is exactly right that FreedomWorks and other organizations trying to oust Hatch really ought to focus on liberal Democrats first and foremost, the fact is that whoever wins the Utah Republican primary is likely to win the general election – and Liljenquist is the more conservative candidate. While Hatch is a generally reliable conservative vote, a few things cause me to think it’s time for Hatch to go:
First, Hatch was on the air with Laura Ingraham during my brief stint with her show, and he claimed he never voted for creation of the Department of Education (in response to a claim by FreedomWorks). While it is true he voted against the final conference legislation which created the Department, he also voted for a prior version of the legislation in 1979. This could be somewhat misleading, to say the least, since it is very possible that passage of the prior version was important to getting the conference report to the floor of both the House and the Senate.
I reached out to Hatch’s office for comment on the potential discrepancy between the votes, but his press secretary was unable to get back to me before the time of publication. I will update this post if I receive any clarifications.
Second, Hatch’s much-proclaimed lifetime ACU ranking whitewashes that as of late it seems to vary depending on the year. While some of this is likely due to the partisan nature of Congress (many “conservatives” seemed to like big spending under Bush and reclaimed conservatism in 2009), as well as the different legislation “scored” by the ACU in different years, his recent record seems to change with his electoral prospects. A look through his American Conservative Union rating record shows he has gotten more conservative as the 2012 election draws closer, and especially so after the defeat of former Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) in 2010. Consider:
- 2007 ACU rating: 76%
- 2008 ACU rating: 80%
- 2009 ACU rating: 88%
- 2010 ACU rating: 100%
- 2011 ACU rating: 100%
Third, Hatch’s claims to have brought forth a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in 1977 is accurate…but that particular BBA included tax increases as a way to balance the budget. It is thus not the same style of BBA often introduced and backed by conservatives – including Hatch – today, so an apples-to-apples comparison is inaccurate. And while I normally don’t hold what someone did over 30 years ago against him or her, Hatch has used his co-sponsorship of that legislation to great effect in campaigning, and it was part of Palin’s endorsement, so it is fair game to note that he wanted tax increases as an option to balance the budget.
Again, all in all, I think getting Hatch out of office despite a generally conservative voting record is not the best use of conservative groups’ time and money. However, that’s how things have played out so far in this election cycle. As such, conservatives have the option of backing a 36-year incumbent with a center-right voting record (not forgetting his transgressions, which include grudgingly advising Bill Clinton to nominate Ginsberg and Breyer to the Supreme Court and his vote for TARP) or a more conservative challenger in a state where the Republican is almost certain to win. I say support the conservative upstart.
[This was originally posted at Race42012.com]