Then Hatch, a former boxer, turns combative. "I despise these people, and I'm not the guy you come in and dump on without getting punched in the mouth."
But Hatch responded with fistfuls of cash instead of fisticuffs, hiring a full-time staff of 20, which first focused on the neighborhood caucuses and is now wooing, one by one, the 3,936 state convention delegates elected caucus night.
They wield enormous power in Utah's Republican nominating process. No candidate gets on the ballot — for the primary or general election — unless the delegates put him there. A candidate with 60 percent or more of the convention vote becomes the party nominee and avoids the June 26 primary.
"A year ago, people were saying that [Hatch] is not going to be able to survive the convention," recalls campaign manager Dave Hansen. "Now they're talking about if he's able to get the 60 percent to avoid a primary."
(See also related The Hill and Huffington Post stories.)