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D.C. Notebook: Hatch loves Mitt, but warns him to avoid gaffes

Published February 4, 2012 6:00 pm

Politics • Lee uses feud with Obama as fundraising pitch.
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Sen. Orrin Hatch says Mitt Romney has a lock on the Republican presidential nomination but warns that he needs to be more cautious in what he says to avoid headline-grabbing gaffes.

The Utah Republican says Romney's recent comment — that he's "not concerned about the very poor" because there's a safety net for those folks — provides fodder against the candidate and he needs to watch his mouth.

"I think he will be the standard bearer," Hatch told The Tribune off the Senate floor last week. "As you can see, he's going to have to be much more careful about what he says. Because even though he said it correctly and clarified what he meant, they lift it out of context and beat him up with it."

"They," of course, are the news media and political opponents.

That said, Hatch notes that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's candidacy is troubling because "we all know that some of his approaches to life have been very problematic" — a veiled reference to Gingrich's two failed marriages — and that ex-Sen. Rick Santorum can't appeal to independents or moderate Republicans.

As for Romney, Hatch says, "I think Mitt is going to win and he's going to be a formidable candidate. ... He's the only one that has a chance of defeating the president."

Draft Huntsman • Americans Elect, a new group attempting to pull together a third-party bid for the White House, is running an online election to draft their candidate, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is coming in second so far.

Huntsman, who withdrew from the Republican race last month, isn't likely to jump on board the Americans Elect movement — especially because he already endorsed Romney. But at the moment, he's got the second-most votes for getting the new party's nod. Rep. Ron Paul, who is still running for the GOP nomination, is leading the online poll.

There's also a draft "Rocky Johnson" effort on the Americans Elect site, listing him as mayor of one of the 100 largest U.S. cities. We're not sure, but just guessing that's supposed to be Rocky Anderson, as in the former mayor of Salt Lake City who is running for president in the newly formed Justice Party.


The fight for cash • Sen. Mike Lee is trying to turn a jab from President Barack Obama into some campaign contributions.

Lee's Constitutional Conservatives Fund sent out a fundraising email after Obama took a shot at the Utah Republican for saying he would resist all of his nominees because he is upset with the way Obama used a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray as head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Last weekend, Obama said: "One senator gumming up the works for the whole country is certainly not what our Founding Fathers envisioned."

Lee shot back in his fundraising letter: "In fact our Founding Fathers did envision a tyrannical executive," which was why they gave the Senate the power to confirm appointees.

He ends the plea by saying: "The president has now attacked me directly. Will you help me fight? Your contribution will help me stand up to the president."

Some liberal groups are calling foul because Lee has said his fight against the recess appointments is not a partisan one.

In reaction, the senator said he is trying to make it a 2012 election issue, but that it isn't partisan because he would fight a Republican president who used the same means to bypass the Senate.

Obama is not Jesus • Hatch did not appreciate Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he used scriptures to defend his calls for increasing taxes on the very wealthy.

So the senator delivered a blistering speech on the Senate floor.

"I think most Americans would agree that the Gospels are concerned with weightier matters than effective tax rates," he said. "Someone needs to remind the president that there was only one person who walked on water. And he did not occupy the Oval Office."

Morning email • Snack on Political Cornflakes, our morning dish of political news. Send an email to cornflakes@sltrib.com to join our mailing list or follow us on Twitter @SLTribPolitics and check back at www.politicalcornflakes.com for regular updates.

Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.






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