But Hatch said he has more confidence than Howell that Republicans may win the Senate and that he will become chairman. "Even if I'm not, I'm still Republican leader [on the committee] and they have to run everything by me, and I have a lot of say and a lot of clout."
Hatch said if Democrats win the Senate and Romney is president, "He probably needs me more if we are still in the minority." He added that he has "the experience, the clout and the raw determination to continue to stand up for Utah and for our country."
But Howell said a President Romney would find Howell to be someone who could help end gridlock in the Senate and build bipartisan support for his agenda. "I will be the one who compromises, that brings about bipartisanship, and I'll be about crossing the aisle. I've done that all in my history at the Utah State Senate," where he was the Senate minority leader for eight years.
The pair spent much of their hour on KSL Radio's "Doug Wright Show" jousting about partisan stalemate and whether it's time for a change after Hatch's 36 years in the Senate.
The candidates had a testy exchange after Hatch charged that Democrats have "a voracious desire to increase taxes" while never delivering promised spending cuts, "and that's why we're $16-plus trillion in national debt. It isn't the Republicans who have done that."
Howell shot back: "There you go again. It's those Democrats … "
Hatch interrupted to say: "I didn't say that. We need Democrats to work with Republicans … Don't misrepresent."
Howell then continued, saying Hatch "said it was those Democrats who did that... Remember when Republicans took over Congress during the Bush years? They didn't decrease spending, they increased it. Orrin became part of that problem, and hasn't let go of that."
While Hatch once worked across the aisle with Democrats, Howell said, he has not done so recently as he moved to the right to win support from tea partyers and has helped push the Senate into gridlock.
Hatch responded by quoting The Salt Lake Tribune's endorsement of him.
"It said in short, Orrin Hatch knows about bipartisan compromise. Others talk about crossing the aisle. He has done it."
Howell retorted by pointing out "The Tribune endorsed President Obama as well as Orrin Hatch."
Howell said an example of Hatch pandering to the far right was backing off from his support of the DREAM Act, which he introduced, to allow undocumented children brought into the country by their parents to attend college and work towards citizenship.
"Senator Hatch has abandoned something that he once championed. That is so disappointing," Howell said.
Hatch claimed "Democrats changed the DREAM Act to where I cannot support it."
The Republican said Utah voters know who will best represent them.
"We all know there is a liberal party and there is a conservative party. I belong to the conservative party," Hatch said.
"Who can best fight for us in Utah and win? That is the real issue … I would not be running if I didn't fervently believe that I can make a compelling difference for Utah and for this great country."
Howell, a retired IBM executive, said he admired Hatch, "but at IBM if you don't do something in a year, you're fired … Utahns would be better served by electing a conservative Democrat."