Those most critical of Hatch are taking aim at some past votes that had bipartisan support in Congress, such as backing government funding for financial firms in danger of collapse during the last recession. Hatch is also one of the original architects of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to low- and moderate-income children not eligible for Medicaid.
Boyd Pugmire, a potential delegate from Cache County, is chafing at FreedomWorks' efforts to oust Hatch.
"I don't believe people want to let some organization out of Washington, D.C., tell them who their congressman should be," Pugmire said. "That's for Utahans to decide."
But FreedomWorks is not the only outside group trying to influence the election. Nearly 40 percent of the $4.9 million Hatch's campaign raised last year came from political action committees representing insurers, technology giants, banks and the myriad other corporations and trade groups influenced by the legislation that moves through the Senate Finance Committee, where he's the ranking member.
"I wouldn't be running again if it wasn't for being the Republican leader of the Finance Committee. Everyone knows that's the most important committee in the Senate, if not the most important committee in Congress," Hatch said. "It's been 80 years since a Utahan has chaired that committee. I think I'll have the opportunity to do that."
Meanwhile, his opponents are hoping that Utah Republicans will once again make a statement to the rest of the nation about frustration with Congress.
"The anger has died down some but the fatigue has grown," Liljenquist said. "Congress's approval ratings are at an all-time low and people in this state are looking for new leaders to change this up."
Freking reported from Washington.
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