SALT LAKE CITY — Scott Howell has pounded the pavement, knocked on doors and made speeches in all of Utah's 29 counties in his effort to oust longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch.
The former Democratic state senator holds weekly news conferences to lay out his ideas and plans for the economy or education, though most haven't attracted much media attention. He hasn't appeared in any TV ads.
Still, Howell has persisted in getting his message out, including a campaign blitz Saturday to distribute fliers to 27,000 homes. Howell said its time send Hatch home in favor of new blood and fresh thinking in Washington.
"This is a great man who's from the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s," Howell said. "We don't need people back there who don't understand what's going on in modern America."
Hatch, meanwhile, has played hard to get, jetting back and forth between Utah and Washington. Incumbency in an overwhelmingly Republican state allows him to pick and choose his campaign spots. Last week, he teamed up with GOP congressional candidate Mia Love to meet with senior citizens and students.
In answering a question about technology at a recent debate, Hatch seemed to say time has not passed him by.
"I have my iPhone 5 and I really enjoy it. I gotta tell you, I use it all the time. I use my iPad all the time. I get on the computer even, believe it or not," he said.
The two candidates have had one face-to-face debate so far. Doug Wright is scheduled to host another one at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, on KSL Radio.
Hatch holds an enormous money advantage over Howell. He raised $604,000 in the past quarter, more than twice what Howell has pulled down for the entire campaign. Hatch spent $1.5 million the past three months, bringing his re-election bid total to $11.7 million.
Howell has raised $243,000 and had $91,000 on hand as of Sept. 30.
Hatch is the 23rd longest serving senator in U.S. history and the Senate's third most senior member. He defeated Howell in 2000 by a 2-to-1 margin.
The 59-year-old Howell has made an issue of Hatch's age, saying at one point during the campaign that, at 78, the six-term senator could die in office. The Hatch camp denounced the comment as crass.
Howell said the Founding Fathers never intended for someone to stay in public service for 42 years, which would be the case for Hatch if he's elected to what he said would be his final term.
"We continue to elect the very same people, and we wonder why we get the same results," Howell said. "We cannot perpetuate a seniority system that generates this 10 percent approval" rating of Congress.
Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both need to go as part of a change in leadership, he said.
As a state senator, Howell said, he retired after three terms because that's what he said he would do. If elected to the U.S. Senate, he said he would serve no more than two terms.
Hatch said voters already have a way to limit terms, "and that's the ballot box." He said he could live with term limits if every state had them. Utahns, he said, keep electing him because he's effective.
"When it comes to seniority, I hardly ever talk about it," Hatch said.
Yet, he frequently says he's running again because as the ranking Republican on the powerful Senate Finance Committee he is in line to be its chairman, a position that comes through seniority. The GOP also must win control of the Senate for that to happen.
"If we're going to solve problems in this country, it's that committee that does that," Hatch said, noting about 60 percent of the federal budget runs through the committee.
Howell quoted a recent analysis by Nate Silver of the New York Times showing the GOP has only a 13 percent chance of winning the Senate in November.
Hatch also has hitched his re-election bid to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I believe Mitt Romney is going to be elected president of the United States, and I intend to help him. And I'll be in a position to help him. That's why he made that statement, 'We need Orrin Hatch in the United States Senate,'" he said.
Howell counters by saying Hatch can't ride Romney's coattails.
"You should stand up for who you are. You have a record," he told the senator at a recent debate.
Hatch says he has a proven track record as a conservative. He said he's the only candidate in position to repeal Obamacare, overhaul the tax code, reform entitlements and reduce the national debt. Hatch has proposed a balance budget amendment 20 times during his tenure, coming within one vote of getting it passed in 1997.
"Fighting for fiscal restraint has often been an uphill battle, but this year more Americans than ever before are eager to see the budget balanced, the deficits ended and the debt reduced," he said.
Howell, a retired IBM executive, said Hatch has had more than three decades to accomplish some of those things. He's part of the problem, not the solution, Howell said.
"At IBM, if we kept our same leadership for 36 years, we'd be bankrupt," he said.
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Occupation: U.S. senator
Education: Bachelor's degree in history, BYU; law degree, University of Pittsburgh
Political experience: 36 years in Senate
Family: Wife, Elaine; six children
Residence: Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City
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Occupation: Retired IBM executive
Education: Bachelor's degree in political science, University of Utah
Political experience: Utah Senate three terms; failed 2000 bid for U.S. Senate15 comments on this story
Family: Wife, Linda; four children
Residence: Salt Lake City