Hatch withstands tea party opposition, for now

By KEVIN FREKING | April 22, 2012 | 4:17 PM EDT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The tea party movement solidified its presence as a force within the Republican Party two years ago when it helped orchestrate the defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett. But it fell short this weekend of doing the same thing to Sen. Orrin Hatch.

At least for now.

Hatch won Utah's nominating convention handily, but will still face a primary against former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.

The outcome raises a question of whether the tea party effort has lost some momentum, or whether it was simply outflanked by Hatch and his superior resources.

A national leader of tea party efforts, FreedomWorks, spent more than $700,000 through a super PAC to defeat Hatch.

The PAC's political director said that forcing Hatch to become more conservative counts as a victory, even if Hatch prevails.