A new poll out of Utah finds Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch leading his possible challenger for the GOP nomination in 2012, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but nevertheless measuring under the crucial 50% mark for his own support.
The new numbers from Dan Jones: Hatch 44%, Chaffetz 34%. The poll of Utah residents has a ±4.4% margin of error.
Chaffetz, who was elected to the House in 2008, has responded to the poll, Deseret News reports. “Not bad for a rookie. I’m excited. What an honor,” said Chaffetz. “I was nine years old when he (Hatch) took office.”
Some good news for Hatch: In the primary subset who identify themselves as Republicans, he is ahead by a slightly better 51%-35%. However, Chaffetz has an identical lead of 51%-35% among those who identify as “very conservative” — a demographic likely to participate in the caucuses for the crucial state GOP convention.
In 2010, Hatch’s fellow Senator Bob Bennett was defeated for renomination at the convention, unable to even advance to the primary between eventual winner Mike Lee and his opponent Tim Bridgewater.
In order to win a party nomination in Utah, candidates must compete at the state party convention, in which it is possible to win the nomination outright with a 60% vote of delegates. Otherwise, the top-two finishers head to a runoff. See here for more on the rules, and for the moment when Bennett was eliminated in 2010.