Chaffetz: Hatch's 36 years in Senate might be enough

Politics » Congressman: 'Orrin will be 78 in 2012.'
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Rep. Jason Chaffetz zeroed in on Sen. Orrin Hatch's record-breaking longevity and his age in explaining why he may challenge Utah's highest profile politician in 2012.

The first-term congressmen's remarks to Fox News on Tuesday were far from the first time Chaffetz has hinted that he may run for Senate, but they were surely the most pointed.

"I respect everything that Senator Hatch has done, but the question is whether 36 years in the U.S. Senate might be enough. Orrin will be 78 in 2012," said Chaffetz, who expects the current anti-incumbent vibe to last.

Hatch says he plans to run for re-election in two years. His office declined to respond Tuesday to Chaffetz's remarks, but Dave Hansen, Hatch's former campaign manager and the current chairman of the Utah Republican Party, weighed in.

"Anybody who wants to take on Senator Hatch has to understand that there is a reason he has won six campaigns in a row. He is a good campaigner and a good senator," Hansen said.

He didn't have a problem with Chaffetz referencing Hatch's age. For the record, the first-term representative is 43, while Hatch is 76.

"He's the youngest 76-year-old person I've ever known," Hansen said. "He is still very energetic."

Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1976 and is now the longest serving senator in Utah's history. Chaffetz burst onto the scene by beating incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon in the 2008 Republican primary.

Chaffetz briefly considered running against Sen. Bob Bennett, who lost his bid for the Republican nomination at last weekend's state convention. Republicans Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater will face each other in a June 22 primary.

Hansen said it isn't a shock to "anyone in politics" that Chaffetz is interested in running against Hatch.

But for now, Chaffetz is simply running for re-election in Utah's 3rd Congressional District. And Hansen said while speculating on future races is fun, a lot can change between now and the 2012 campaign season.

"It is natural to focus on the next Senate election," he said. "But we don't even have a nominee selected for this election yet."