The Green Papers: News

Orrin Hatch Withdraws, Endorses George W. Bush
Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Today Senator Hatch's site states "Senator Orrin Hatch ended his presidential bid Wednesday, January 26, 2000. For further information, please go to

The text below was copied from the above CNN link on January 26, 2000 and bears a CNN Copyright. (I would prefer to post a statement from the candidate rather than a news clipping....)

Hatch abandons presidential bid
Utah senator endorses Bush

January 26, 2000
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After his last-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch abandoned his Republican presidential nomination bid Wednesday and endorsed GOP front-runner George W. Bush for the nomination.

"I believe Governor Bush is the one who can unite the party and bring back the White House to us," he said. "I think he has the ability to do that. Now that I am out, I think Governor Bush is the only person who can get things done."

Hatch received 1 percent of the GOP vote in the Iowa caucuses Bush, the Texas governor, was the winner of the GOP Iowa caucuses. Bush received 41 percent of the vote. Publisher Steve Forbes came in second with 30 percent, and Alan Keyes, a former ambassador, took third with 14 percent.

In a memorable quote from one of the GOP debates, Hatch said Bush would make a fine president after eight years as vice president in a Hatch administration. But the senator said his confidence in Bush has risen as he has observed him on the campaign trail.

"I like the fact he can reach across partisan lines," he said. "I think we've got to have that in this country and certainly in our party. We can't just take a narrow agenda and just narrowly be for a few people in this country. We've got to be for everybody."

Hatch mustered a bare 1 percent in Monday night's caucuses, which were the first votes cast in the 2000 presidential race. The senator returned immediately to Washington, where he had hoped to make his withdrawal announcement Tuesday. But the heavy snowstorm in the nation's capital made him postpone that.

Hatch, whose sense of humor was evident throughout the news conference, said he told his wife Elaine that the snowstorm may have been a sign from God that he should stay in the race.

"Elaine responded and she said, 'No, Orrin, the Iowa caucuses were the sign from God,' " he said to laughter.

On a more serious note, Hatch blamed his late entry into the race for his poor showing in Monday night's caucuses.

"I got in too late. I regret having not gotten in earlier. I think it would have made a difference. To be honest with you, most every Republican was taken by the time," he said, adding that "I don't think you can do it in a six-month campaign. I think I've proven that."

Hatch launched his quixotic campaign for the Republican nomination last July. At that time, Hatch said that he had examined the rest of the GOP field and found it lacking a candidate with the experience to be an effective president.

Aides also said that Hatch was concerned that the other candidates in the GOP field were not strong enough to step into the front-runner position in the event of a stumble by Bush.

Hatch, 65, was hoping his four terms in the Senate would show voters he had the experience to be president. He repeatedly said he was the only candidate with the background to pick Supreme Court justices who would uphold conservative principles, such as opposition to abortion.

He reiterated his feelings about that issue Wednesday, saying it may be the "single most important issue" in the presidential election.

"The next president may very well appoint up to half of the federal judiciary ... and up to five members of the Supreme Court, thereby determining whether our federal judiciary is governed by the rule of law or becomes a non-elected legislature, immune from recall or censure by the public," he said.

But he also found it frustrating that his four terms in the Senate did not count for much on the campaign trail.

"It was a little bit frustrating to find that people in Iowa didn't even know who I was, some of them, and the 23 years (In the Senate) hardly meant anything to them," he said.

Hatch faced an uphill battle from the start. He joined a crowded GOP field with better known candidates already well established and other candidates already struggling as Bush kept gaining momentum.

He jokingly noted Wednesday that he moved up quickly in the crowded field in the months after he entered the race.

"Now some nitpickers may say that's because Lamar, Dan and Liddy dropped out but I kind of liked the trend," he said, referring to the candidacies of Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole, who dropped out due to Bush's strength and fund raising. "Unfortunately, the other candidates are not doing their part to keep this trend going," he said.

Hatch asked for 1 million donors to give him $36 each to raise $36 million in an effort to catch Bush. But he fell far short of that goal, raising $2.3 million so far with his candidacy mired at the bottom of the polls.

Dropping out of the presidential race early also allows Hatch to focus on his Senate re-election campaign. Utah lawmakers had changed state law to allow him to simultaneously run for president and for the Senate.

Hatch, the only Mormon among the presidential contenders, has said anti-Mormon bias hurt him among Christian conservative voters.

He said Wednesday that a Gallup Poll showed that 17 percent of Americans would not vote for a Mormon, adding he hoped his candidacy helped dispel some misconceptions about his religious faith.

"I can't do anything about bigots or bigotry but I can do a lot about people who are misinformed about my faith and about some people who don't believe we are Christian," he said. "I don't know how they can say that because the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

But one Iowa political observer said Hatch's Senate experience was not enough to overcome a poorly funded and poorly organized campaign.

"The fact that he's had a lot of experience in the Senate wasn't really that exciting or enough to make people want to switch over to him," said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor.

Hatch bought television airtime in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier this month to air his first commercial, a 28-minute speech that lambasted the Clinton administration, focusing especially on issues of national security.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hatch played a crucial role in the months leading to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Aides say the experience left him with "a really bad feeling" toward Clinton, and a determination to see a Republican presidential victory in 2000.

And while he endorsed Bush, Hatch said any of the five remaining GOP candidates would be an "improvement over the current occupant of the White House." Of the other Republicans in the bottom three in Iowa, Ariz. Sen. John McCain took 5 percent but he did not campaign in the state, skipping the caucuses in favor of the upcoming New Hampshire and South Carolina presidential primaries.

Religious conservative candidate Gary Bauer got 9 percent and told advisers he intended to keep his schedule in New Hampshire this week.

Bauer said of Hatch: "I can't say I'm too sad to see him go since I want everyone to go but me. But he's a good man and I'm glad he was there."

CNN's John King and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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