Senator Orrin Hatch is facing his first competitive Republican primary since being elected 36 years ago. Hatch has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, a political superhero in Utah due partly to his Mormon faith and his managing the Salt Lake Olympics in 2000. At a Provo town hall meeting last Saturday Hatch’s opponent Dan Liljenquist, a former Utah state senator, sought to capitalize on Romney’s popularity by emphasizing his own connections to Romney, saying he was “a huge Mitt Romney supporter,” reminding the audience that he had worked at Bain & Company where Romney had been the CEO a decade earlier, and hinting that Romney had only endorsed Hatch because Liljenquist had not yet entered the race.
The Romney campaign announced today in a press e-mail that during a stop-over in Salt Lake City on Friday afternoon (June 8) the GOP presidential nominee would do a short “photo op” with Hatch, stipulating “photos only” and that there would be no other press access. Since national press are not being chartered to Utah with Romney, the photo-op will likely only be covered by local media. A few weeks ago Romney named Hatch a “special adviser” for his presidential campaign.
The Utah GOP primary will take place on June 26. Hatch and Liljenquist are scheduled to do a low-profile morning radio debate on June 15.