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Orrin Hatch is now the hunted — but Sarah Palin's surprise endorsement could help

Published: Wednesday, May 23 2012 9:38 a.m. MDT

Senator Orrin Hatch speaks to the media about Dan Liljenquist narrowly forcing him into a primary election at the Utah Republican Party 2012 Nominating Convention at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy on Saturday, April 21, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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Related story: Liljenquist TV ad aims to pressure Hatch into more debates

A front-page story in Wednesday's New York Times detailed the parallels between Sen. Orrin Hatch's path to victory in the 1976 election, and the strategy now being employed 36 years later to trying and unseat Utah's senior senator.

"Mr. Hatch, now 78, was a complete unknown six months before his first election," Kirk Johnson wrote for the Times. "Then in a bolt of energy and rhetorical swordsmanship against his opponents, he wrested the United States Senate nomination from his own party’s establishment candidate and went on to beat a well-financed three-term Democratic incumbent. … Now Mr. Hatch is facing his first primary challenge since that pivotal first election 36 years ago, and a little-known conservative former state senator, Dan Liljenquist, is studying everything Mr. Hatch did and said back then, trying to use Mr. Hatch’s own ’70s show against him in next month’s party vote."

But as the article later pointed out, "Mr. Hatch has also refused to be a sitting duck. Through months of intensive groundwork before last month’s state party convention, his campaign staff groomed and recruited party delegates, and back-bench supporters of those delegates, aiming to head off the challenge he knew was coming."

To that end, Hatch still has a few surprises up his sleeve — like the surprise announcement late Tuesday that former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has chosen to endorse Hatch over Liljenquist.

"Sarah Palin abandoned her tendency to go with the tea party choice, instead backing six-term incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch over state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in the Utah Senate GOP primary and calling him 'Mr. Balanced Budget for Utah' in a Facebook post Tuesday night," ABC News blogger Shushannah Walshe wrote Wednesday.

In other Hatch-related news, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee teamed up with Sen. John Coryn, R-Texas, on Wednesday to pen an op-ed piece for FoxNews.com with the headline, "The Law of the Sea treaty will sink America's economy."

"Now some in the U.S. Senate want to say yes to an international tax," Hatch and Coryn wrote. "It would be the first time in history that an international organization would possess taxing authority, and it would amount to billions of American dollars being transferred out of the U.S. Treasury."

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