There was a striking — and illuminating — moment in an interview that Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) gave to NBC’s Chuck Todd on the “Daily Rundown” on Thursday.
After calling Obamacare a “dog bill” and insisting that some good did come out of the shutdown showdown, Hatch was blunt when asked about the influence of outside conservative groups and the Heritage Foundation in particular.
“Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual conservative ideas,” Hatch said. “There’s some real question in the minds of many Republicans now … is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn’t amount to anything anymore…. Right now I think it’s in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C.”
Hatch’s willingness to so publicly bash Heritage — an organization now headed by his one-time colleague Jim DeMint — is evidence of the growing frustrations within the party about the clout that organizations such as Heritage Action, the political arm of the think tank, as well as the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, now wield over Republican members of Congress. (Hatch has some personal experience with those groups, as he was painted by some of them as insufficiently conservative in his 2012 reelection race.) That fight will continue to play itself out in 2014 as the Club and SCF both endorsed a primary challenger to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on Wednesday, and many of the most influential conservative outside groups have also been publicly critical of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who faces a primary challenge next year.
The full interview with Hatch is below. The Heritage talk comes around the seven-minute mark.