Money Can’t Buy Everything: The Fall of Brent Orrin Hatch in Utah’s GOP Primary

Brent Orrin Hatch discovered a hard truth: even with a prominent last name, significant financial backing, and support from conservative powerhouses, securing a spot in Utah’s Senate race is no small feat. Despite the robust backing from Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society—a group instrumental in steering Trump’s judicial appointments—and a surge of dark money, Hatch’s campaign for the Senate seat fell flat.

The story began unfolding early this year when Brent, leveraging his lineage as the son of the long-serving Senator Orrin Hatch, threw his hat into the ring to replace retiring Senator Mitt Romney. Armed with substantial financial resources, including nearly a million dollars of his own money and an additional $2 million in dark money, Brent seemed poised to make a significant impact in the crowded GOP primary.

Yet, his campaign’s foundation began to crumble almost as quickly as it was built. Despite his financial advantage and strategic name-dropping of his familial ties, Brent found himself struggling in a race that initially showed promise. Early polls placed him as a close second to Representative John Curtis, yet the political winds in Utah were shifting in a direction that no amount of money could redirect.

The challenge was multifaceted: while Brent Hatch wielded significant endorsements and financial contributions from conservative elites, his connection with the voters remained tenuous. The GOP convention, known for its extremist leanings, proved particularly brutal. Here, the legacy of his father and his own conservative credentials did little to sway the far-right delegates, who at one point shockingly branded him a “liberal.”

This label, whether accurate or not, highlighted a critical disconnect between Hatch and the grassroots conservative movement that has increasingly found alignment with Trump’s brand of politics. It’s a movement that values a certain ideological purity and dismissive of what they perceive as establishment figures, regardless of their conservative bona fides.

Furthermore, Hatch’s reliance on his past—touting his roles during the Reagan administration and connections to historical figures like Robert Bork—failed to resonate with Utah’s youthful electorate. This miscalculation was compounded by his inability to adapt his campaign strategies to the evolving demographic and political landscape of one of America’s youngest and fastest-growing states.

As the campaign unfolded, Hatch’s initial advantages evaporated. He struggled to collect the necessary petition signatures to secure a spot on the primary ballot, falling short by about 7,000. His performance at the GOP convention was dismal, culminating in a crushing defeat where he garnered less than 2% of the delegate vote.

This series of missteps and miscalculations culminated in a campaign that was rich in resources but poor in voter connection and contemporary relevance. It serves as a poignant reminder that in politics, particularly in a state as idiosyncratic as Utah, money and endorsements can only go so far. The voters demand—and deserve—more.

In the end, Brent Orrin Hatch’s campaign is a case study in the limitations of financial power in politics. It underscores the growing influence of grassroots movements and the shifting dynamics within the Republican Party, which increasingly prioritizes populist appeal over traditional conservative pedigree. As Utah prepares to choose Romney’s successor, this election cycle may well be remembered not for who advanced but for the high-profile candidate who didn’t make the cut.