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Hatch, rivals compete for delegates tonight. Huntsman for a third-party bid?

Happy Thursday. Republicans will head to their neighborhood caucuses tonight to choose delegates to the Utah Republican Convention where rivals will try to topple Sen. Orrin Hatch. Hatch's campaign has recruited thousands of folks to help out Utah's senior senator and it all comes down to who shows up tonight. "No campaign has ever spent this much time and this much resources to accomplish what we have accomplished," says Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen. [Trib]

-> Republicans make last-ditch efforts to rouse support and attendance at its Thursday caucus. [APviaDNews] [Fox13]

-> Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist responds to attack ad claims and says he wants to run because Hatch controls the Finance Committee. [Fox13]

-> A note to our media friends: Some national reporters have wondered whether there will be results out of tonight's caucuses. Short answer: no. While the party will eventually release a list of elected delegates, it's nearly impossible to immediately know who they support or even if they have decided on a candidate. Plus, there's always a chance the delegate could switch sides. So the only result you might get is anecdotal. There may be a few polls between now and April 21, the actual convention, but its a difficult scientifically survey to perform, so we might just have to wait.

Topping the news: Could Jon Huntsman be back in the presidential race? His daughter/spokeswoman doesn't dispel the idea when asked. [Trib]

-> The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee urged Sen. Mike Lee to back off his opposition to the judiciary appointments, suggesting he take the lead from more experienced senators. [Trib]

-> The shouts of hundreds of protesters filled the state Capitol's rotunda yesterday, rallying for Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the newly-passed sex education bill. [Trib] [Fox13]

Apologies: BYU plays today at 12:45 Utah time today, giving pro-Cougar Republicans plenty of time to root for their team and then head to the neighborhood caucuses. I had the wrong time in yesterday's edition. Perhaps, if the Cougs win, it'll drive more folks out to celebrate with their fellow boosters. If not, then nothing will get you over a loss than a bit of politicking, right?

Tweet of the day: @UtahProgressive: "We're still working on getting Governor Herbert's morse code operator to return our Beep, Beep, Beeps."

In other news: Peg McEntee argues that Sen. Lee needs to see past his his idealism to benefit Utah's district court. [Trib]

-> Utah Policy's Bob Bernick looks at the political moves being made by state lawmakers on the last day to file for office. [UtahPolicy]

-> Morgan Philpot has filed to challenge Herbert to the governor seat, saying Herbert's indecision on the sex education bill shows a lack of leadership. [Fox13]

-> Pat Bagley offers his take on Doonesbury's recent controversial cartoon. [Trib]

-> A meeting on oil shale apparently disappoints all sides of the issue. [Trib]

2012 Watch: A Fox News poll shows Mitt Romney remains the top pick for GOP voters and the second pick for enough people that if one dropped out, he'd still land on top. [FoxNews]

-> Rick Santorum's chief strategist says if Romney is elected the Republican nominee, the Santorum camp will back him. [LATimes]

-> Just a few days before Puerto Rico's primary, Santorum tells its voters they must make English their official language if they want statehood — a statement at odds with the Constitution. [Reuters] [APviaWaPost]

-> Romney critics push back at the candidate's vow to cut federal funding for several programs, including Planned Parenthood, that aren't "so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for." [CNN]

-> When it comes down to numbers, Santorum has some mountains to climb if he's to be picked as the nominee. [Globe]

-> Romney leads GOP rivals, but President Barack Obama still is head of all four.[BusinessWeek]

-> Increasing numbers of Republicans don't see a plausible win for Newt Gingrich, and many are encouraging the candidate to step out. [WaPost] [USAToday]

-> Gingrich says he's staying in the race and lauded science and technology as the way to a strong, 21st century conservatism. [SunTimes]

Where are they?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz meets with U. President David Pershing and attends the Republican caucuses in the evening.

Gov. Gary Herbert appears on CNBC's Squawk Box, greets the Mongolian ambassador at the Governor's Office, goes to the debut of the Boeing 787 airplane and reviews bills.

AG Mark Shurtleff meets with the ambassador of Mexico.

SL Co. Mayor Peter Corroon goes to a Unified Police District board meeting, speaks at a Parks and Recreation Division retreat and receives the Humanitarian Award at the the Inclusion Center awards ceremony.

SLC Mayor Ralph Becker welcomes people to the pipeline safety conference, heads to a Wasatch Front Regional Council air quality meeting and meets with Mayor Corroon.

WVC Mayor Mike Winder speaks to the Draper/Riverton Rotary Club and attends a neighborhood Republican caucus.

President Barack Obama travels to Largo, Md., where he will speak at Prince George's Community College.

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— Thomas Burr and Laura

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