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A new poll says six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch is falling short of the 60 percent of delegate votes that he needs at the Utah Republican Convention to avoid a primary.
Hatch now has 50.5 percent of delegate support, according to the poll conducted Monday and Tuesday of 400 delegates by NSON Opinion Strategy for Strong Utah PAC, a "super PAC" formed to support Hatch.
The poll has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.
Earlier, the Hatch campaign had released a poll saying the senator had 62 percent of delegate support. It was conducted a few days earlier on March 27-29 by Dan Jones Associates of 335 delegates.
If a contender wins 60 percent of the votes of the 4,000 delegates to the state GOP convention April 21, that candidate advances to the general election. Otherwise, the top two candidates face off in a primary. Ten Republicans are running for Hatch's seat.
The new poll says former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist has 19.5 percent of delegate support; state Rep. Chris Herrod has 5 percent; talk show host Tim Aalders has 1.3 percent; Loy Brunson has 0.3 percent; and 23.5 percent of delegates are undecided.
The earlier Hatch campaign poll said Liljenquist had 16 percent support, Herrod had 5 percent and 17 percent were undecided.
Kelly Casaday, executive director of Strong Utah PAC, said he is unsure why the two polls had different results and make it appear that Hatch is losing ground.
"We found 23 percent of delegates were undecided, and we didn't try to force them into making a decision. If we tried to make them decide among the candidates, perhaps it would have been closer to the results of the Hatch campaign," he said, adding the PAC will probably do more tracking polls nearer to the convention.
The PAC emailed results of its poll to supporters and sought more donations to help Hatch avoid a primary.
"We want to help him find that extra 10 percent of the vote he needs," Casaday said. By law, the PAC and Hatch's campaign cannot coordinate efforts, and the PAC must act independently.
Casaday said his PAC may conduct phone and mail campaigns to help Hatch.