Hatch Apologizes to CPACers for TARP Vote - Or Did He?

Seems that Senator Orrin Hatch is having a tough time making up his mind. The Washington Post reports that the long-serving Utah Republican kinda-sorta apologized to CPAC attendees for his vote for the TARP bailout. CPAC stands for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held in Washington, DC, this past week.

Here's what Senator Hatch is quoted as saying in response to questions about his bailout vote:

You may disagree, but you're not sitting there having to make these decisions. I probably made a mistake voting for it," Hatch said, emphasizing that he didn't like the entire bill. "At the time, we were in real trouble and it looked like we were ready for a depression," he continued. "I believe we would have gone into a depression.

Like recently deposed Utah Senator Robert Bennett, Hatch is facing the prospect of a tough challenge to his re-nomination in 2012.

In ousting Bennett last year in favor of the no-bones conservative Mike Lee, Utah conservatives made it clear that accommodations with liberals, equivocations, and kinda-sorta excuses simply won't cut it.

Waffling is usually deadly to a candidate, especially in nomination fights where activists and voters want clear-cut stands on principles and policies. Senator Hatch would have been better off making a clean apology for his vote coupled with an "I've seen the light" pledge, or making a stalwart defense of his vote as an exception in an exceptional and difficult circumstance.

There's time for Orrin Hatch to get his act together and recover from his mamsy-pamsy response to the bailout question. But the time isn't long. Grassroots conservatives - in Utah and around the country - are still in unforgiving moods and continue to set the bar high for candidates.

For those grading the field of U.S. Senate candidates in 2012, mark Orrin Hatch as "Highly Vulnerable."