Hatch also echoed Liljenquist's assessment that conditions surrounding this year's convention are much different than 2010, when Obamacare had passed just two days before delegates were selected.
"There were about 27 percent of them last time who weren't even Republicans and were from really fringe right wing groups," Hatch said of the 2010 voting Republican delegates. "There are still a number of those who will be at our convention Saturday."
Both the right and the tea party have criticized Hatch for being too moderate. Hatch voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout, cosponsored the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and has failed to keep federal spending and the deficit in check, his opponents say.
But Hatch argues that all conservatives cannot be blamed for fiscal issues in Congress. "Oh give me a break," he told delegates Thursday when asked to respond to his opponents' criticism of increased spending and the deficit while he has been in office. Hatch asked if Utah's junior senator Mike Lee should be responsible for the national debt, having served in office less than two years? "No, he's not and neither am I," Hatch said.
On Thursday, Hatch touted his conservative credentials, including a 90 percent score from the American Conservative Union for 36 years and his fight against unions. He also noted the influence he's wielded on the nation's court system from his post on the Judiciary Committee as well as the fights he's waged over entitlement programs.
And even though Hatch is busy fighting back against criticism from the right, he is not shy about touting his ability to reach across the aisle, a skill he says he's developed over his many years of service.
"It takes time to develop the relationships, to understand the rules, to build up a reputation that people will listen to," Hatch said. "Experience counts, let me tell you—especially if you are respected."
Polls show Hatch, who remains very well known in the state, strongly positioned against his lesser-known challengers ahead of Saturday's vote. If Hatch doesn't garner at least 60 percent Saturday, he will be pushed into a runoff with his top challenger in a June 26 primary election.
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