Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch’s re-election bid Wednesday, calling the onetime tea-party target a “lifelong conservative” who has fought for a balanced-budget amendment and for conservative Supreme Court justices.
“We need Orrin’s conservative Reagan-like leadership — and our new crop of conservative senators, Richard Mourdock, Deb Fischer and Ted Cruz, might need some friendly advice finding their way around the Senate,” Mrs. Palin said on her blog, SarahPac.
Mr. Hatch will face a contested Republican primary for the first time in 36 years on June 26. Last month, he won 59.2 percent of the delegate vote at the Utah Republican Convention, putting him well ahead of former State Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who had run the kind of conservative-insurgency campaign Mrs. Palin often backs.
Mr. Hatch, though, fell 32 votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed to wrap up the nomination, forcing the 78-year-old to compete in the primary.
The ouster of Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, by Mr. Mourdock, another conservative favorite, in the primary earlier this month focused new attention on Mr. Hatch’s race. A number of “establishment” Republican candidates, including Mr. Hatch’s longtime Utah colleague Sen. Robert F. Bennett, were ousted in the 2010 election cycle.
The tea-party-allied FreedomWorks is one of a number of groups opposing Mr. Hatch, citing, among other things, his support for the No Child Left Behind education law and the 2008 Wall Street bailout bill.
Mrs. Palin, a favorite of grass-roots conservatives, also highlighted how Mr. Hatch voted against and pledged to repeal President Obama’s health care bill — the fate of which, she said, will be decided by three conservative Supreme Court justices that the Utah senator helped get on the bench — Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
“Unlike other Republican senators who are up for re-election this year, Orrin voted against both of President Obama’s nominees, [Elena] Kagan and [Sonia] Sotomayor. And unlike some others, Orrin has gone out of his way to embrace the tea party movement,” she said.