Former state senator Dan Liljenquist, a Republican who in 2012 forced Hatch into his first primary election in 36 years, said he wasn't surprised Hatch wasn't endorsing Lee — because that's what Lee did to Hatch in 2010.
Hatch said the national tea party group FreedomWorks, which had backed Lee in 2010, "did everything they could to try and dump me. They found out I'm not a dumpable guy" after Hatch poured millions of dollars into the race.
Liljenquist, who recently wrote a Deseret News op-ed warning that Lee may have permanently hurt his effectiveness in the Senate, said he has no plans to run against Lee in 2016.
"I support Sen. Lee, but the tone in Washington needs to change and Republicans need to work together," Liljenquist said. He said he wrote the op-ed because what happened "could be harmful to the state if not repaired."
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said he doubted Hatch would endorse anyone at this point in the election cycle.
"So I don't think it's that significant," Jowers said of Hatch declining to endorse Lee on Tuesday. "I think the moment in time makes it feel significant, but it's three years out. A lot can happen."
Quin Monson, head of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said it probably doesn't matter that Hatch isn't endorsing Lee at this point since they have very different supporters.
"It confirms a lot of things people believe one way or the other," Monson said.
Pollster Dan Jones said Hatch may be waiting for the results of the 2014 elections before deciding who gets his support in 2016. Those elections will be a test for tea party candidates, he said.
"It is too early to determine right now whether Mr. Lee will be the Republican nominee for the Republican Party in Utah in 2016," Jones said.
Hatch, the pollster said, is "not running again. He wants his legacy."
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