Utah's long-time GOP Senator Orrin Hatch is in big trouble.
A statewide poll published in the Deseret News shows that a majority of Utahans believe the 6-term senator should be replaced:
A majority of Utah voters believe Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been in office too long and should be replaced, a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
The poll by Dan Jones & Associates found only 38 percent of registered voters agree that it's important to re-elect Hatch in 2012 because of his seniority. Fifty-nine percent said after 36 years, it's time for someone new.
And that someone new could be a Democrat. Utah hasn't had a Democratic U.S. senator since Hatch beat former Sen. Frank Moss in 1976.If Utah's lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, gets in the Senate race, voters would be evenly split, according to the poll, with 47 percent favoring Hatch and 47 percent for Matheson.
Hatch's most likely GOP challenger appears to be Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. In a primary race, 40 percent of poll respondents said they would vote for Hatch and 41 percent for Chaffetz.
Among a slightly smaller sample of voters who said they were likely to vote in a Republican primary, Hatch was ahead of Chaffetz, 47 percent to 44 percent.
But should Chaffetz win the GOP nomination, he wouldn't fare much better against Matheson in the general election. The poll showed 46 percent would vote for Chaffetz and 45 percent for Matheson.
Chaffetz has been carefully cultivating the tea party vote and it appears to be paying off. For a 6-term senator to have a one point lead over a challenger this far out should give Hatch some idea that he might be better off announcing his retirement so that a bruising primary battle can be avoided.
The people seem to think that 36 years in the senate is enough.