Senate candidates prepare to court 4,000 delegates

Published: Saturday, March 17 2012 9:50 a.m. MDT

Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and Federal Relations, said from what he's heard, "universally, the crowds were very pro-Hatch."

"At (my caucus), only people who supported Hatch were elected," he said.

Jowers said he noticed Republican caucuses this year were "more pragmatic, less passionate."

"In 2010, when people were moderate or pro-Bennett, they were booed," he said. "2010 caucuses came very shortly after Obamacare was passed. ... They wanted blood."

More representative caucuses and tempered voters weren't the only thing helping Hatch, however. Print ads and radio and television spots with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsing Utah's senior senator appeared to be a silver bullet for some voters.

Hatch campaign fliers available at caucus meetings featured a photo of Romney and his endorsement.

"When I'm President, I'll need Orrin Hatch as Senate Finance Chair to help me restore America as a land of opportunity and prosperity," the flier read.

It was a message that resonated with Eric Wilkinson, a candidate for delegate for the Cedar Hills 5 precinct.

"They can work hand-in-hand," he said Thursday at his caucus.

Romney also endorsed Bennett in 2010 before convention. But Jowers, a Romney campaign adviser, said Romney's endorsement wasn't as relevant in 2010 as it is today, when he is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

"Utah Republicans are all in for Romney, and I think they take Romney seriously when he says he could use a powerful friend in the Senate," Jowers said.

E-mail: hschwarz@desnews.com

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