Twelve years ago, close friends of Orrin G. Hatch told him to put up or shut up.
Tired of him bemoaning the performance of Sen. Frank E. Moss, they advised the 42-year-old Utah lawyer "to get in and do something about it."Hatch took their advice to heart. On the last possible day, his knees shaking and buckling, he filed.
"Once I did, I made up my mind I would give it everything I could," he recalled. The rest is history.
The political newcomer with no name identification, no strongly organized support and little money to conduct a campaign upset the popular Moss on election day in November 1976, taking 54 percent of the ballots cast. It was the largest percentage accorded a Republican nominee for the Senate by Utah voters since 1926.
The tenacious, pencil-straight lawmaker, now seeking a third term in the Senate, is leading his Democratic opponent by 44 points. Yet Hatch, whose campaign war chest exceeded $3 million, is taking nothing for granted in his race against Frank Moss' son.
"They took me lightly in 1976 - at first," he said. "I certainly
ouldn't take Brian Moss lightly. He's a nice young man.
"Besides, I can only run one way and that's all out. I like to win."
As a member of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, as well as the Judiciary and Special Intelligence committees, Hatch's fighting spirit has scored him some big wins in Washington.
"But the greatest thing about being back there and representing my home state is that I am able to help people," he said. "When I practiced law I was one of those soft hearts that spent at least half my time working pro bono (without fee). I couldn't turn anyone away who needed help if they were honest, decent and had a just cause."
Hatch said each year he and his staff tackle 10,000-15,000 constituent problems. They range from helping save Geneva Steel to assisting parents cut through bureaucratic red tape to adopt orphans from foreign countries.
"I think that even those people who don't support me, and who really don't even like me, have found that when they come to me, I pull all stops for them," Hatch said. "I represent all Utahns; it doesn't make any difference to me if they are a Democrat or Republican. That's not important. What's important is you are a Utahn.
"If you need help, I don't care if you love me, hate me, or whatever. Even people who consider themselves my worst enemies will find they will get a fair shake from me and I will do anything I can to help them. I think I am known for that."
The 54-year-old senator is known for other things - like his dark brown hair, steely brown eyes, 6-foot-2-inch frame, and penchant for a suit, tie and white shirt - ready-to-go-to-church or courtroom - attire.
He has six or seven pairs of cowboy boots, but says he gets criticized every time he wears them because "I am clearly not a rancher, but I do like to support my ranchers."
Hatch, who is known for his ambition and aggression, is also known for his warmth and his talent for putting names with faces. He's both stern and garrulous. A pragmatic and shrewd legislator, he's known for his devotion to "home" - wife, Elaine, and their six children. Yet some Utah voters see him more as a "national senator" than their's.
The soft-spoken fiscal conservative is also known for his outspoken criticism of liberals, which keeps him in political hot water.
"I always have somebody irritated with me," he said. "Along with (Sen. Edward) Kennedy, the two of us seem to generate more antagonism than most - especially from some of the wackos that come out of the wall."
But Hatch's strong heritage has helped him develop a tough skin.
He was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 22, 1934, the sixth of nine children of Jesse Hatch, a metal lath worker, and Helen (Kamm) Hatch.
Like most American families, the depression took its toll on the Hatches, and Orrin remembers going to school in bib overalls and coming home to a house without indoor plumbing.
Their home was in Pennsylvania, but their hearts were in Utah. Frequent trips to visit relatives in the state were not expendable. Hatch said that by age 4 he had natural Utah roots.
Although he earned his law degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and became a full partner in one of the nation's oldest law firms, it was in Utah "where I wanted to live; that's where I wanted to wind up."
But it's in Washington where he wants to continue working.
"The Senate is the greatest graduate school in the world. I can learn from the greatest thinkers and minds from all over the world, and that's something that really appeals to me," he said. "It's a constant learning process and I really love that."
But is there life for Orrin Hatch after the U.S. Senate?
"It's hard to think about anything after the Senate because if I am re-elected to this third term I will be 60 years old when I finish," he said. "That would be amazing to have 18 years under your belt. Then if I could run again, it would be wonderful."
Hatch won't speculate if other political opportunities will present themselves should George Bush be elected president.
"Being in the Senate is no small thing to me," he said. "To represent my state is the highlight of my life."