Liljenquist, a former state senator, did say after the debate that he believed he “clearly won” the contest.
Hatch was more circumspect, telling a gaggle of news reporters and cameras in the KSL lobby that he didn’t rank debates as won or lost.
Still, like the now-famous TV debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, one could see why Hatch’s astute campaign advisors wanted only a radio, not a TV, comparison.
(Kennedy, young and handsome, was believed to have won over the perspiring, shady-looking Nixon.)
Liljenquist’s voice is a bit high pitched. And while Hatch, when pressed, can become squeaky, the difference between the young-looking Liljenquist and the silver-haired Hatch is not one the Hatch campaign may wish for the 78-year-old senator.
That’s not to say Hatch wasn’t up for the Wright show.
He strode in well-tanned (maybe that was some make-up) with a firm handshake and an equally firm grasp of the issues.
Missing were some of the memory-stumbling incidents of recent years. Hatch popped off statistics and names with no troubles.
And Hatch complimented Liljenquist several times, both in the debate itself and afterwards, saying Liljenquist was a bright young man who just lacked the experience Utah and the nation needs over the next six years.
There were a few testy exchanges, like when Liljenquist said Hatch over-inflating his impact on Hill Air Force Base issues.
Liljenquist said no one man – meaning Hatch – alone can, or has, saved Hill.
“This is the politics of fear. No one senator is too big to fail,” said Liljenquist.
Anyone who doesn’t realize how Hill is in jeopardy day in and day out “really shouldn’t be representing our state,” said Hatch.
“Absolutely I know” of Hill’s importance, said Liljenquist.
“Apparently you don’t,” said Hatch.
“What I take issue with is you saying you are the only person who can help” Hill, said Liljenquist.
“No I don’t,” said Hatch, adding that 1st Congressional District Rep. Rob Bishop is also helping out. “Look, I’m getting a little aggravated because some of these arguments are just so foolish,” said Hatch.
“Can I finish” his response, said Liljenquist.
Bishop sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which directly deals with Hill, while Hatch keeps touting his great powers should Republicans take control of the Senate Finance Committee; he will be the chairman.
“The Senate Finance Committee does not address military spending and you know it,” snapped Liljenquist.
You can hear the Doug Wright show’s debate here. Click on the first hour of the June 15 show to download the debate.
Liljenquist pounded Hatch again and again saying Hatch in his 36 years in the Senate is part of the problem of gross mismanagement of the federal budget and skyrocketing entitlement programs (several of which Hatch originally sponsored and/or voted for).
“It will take a new generation” of senators to fix the federal government’s fiscal mess, said Liljenquist, who resigned his Bountiful state Senate seat last year to concentrate full-time in his run against Hatch.
Don’t expect the old folks who created the congressional mess to fix it; they won’t, said Liljenquist.
Hatch, as he had several times over the years, cited his high approval ratings from a number of fiscally conservative groups and added that he, “a conservative senator my whole career,” can’t be blamed for bills and budgets passed by the “liberal Democrats and three to six liberal Republicans” in the Senate.
When Wright gave each man at the debate’s end the chance to ask the other a question, Hatch didn’t ask Liljenquist a question, but talked about his accomplishments.
Liljenquist asked Hatch if, over 36 years, he can take absolutely no responsibility for one vote that dragged the country deeper into fiscal mismanagement.
“Frankly, no,” said Hatch. “I’ve lead the fight against the debt,” Hatch added.
“That answer is absolutely remarkable,” said Liljenquist. “You’ve led a generation of people (our children and grandchildren) into debt and not take a single shred of responsibility, for a single vote.”
After the debate, Liljenquist said he believed not only did he win the debate, but said he’ll win the June 26 election.
And he said Hatch’s performance in the Wright show makes it clear why Hatch agreed to only one primary debate: “He has a very hard time justifying his votes in the Senate over the years.” And Hatch’s campaign managers don’t want more debates, especially TV debates, where Utahns can see first-hand that hard truth.
“He’s just not capable of it” -- explaining himself -- said Liljenquist. “And it is very unfortunate. I clearly won this” debate.
In interviews in the hallway, both Liljenquist and Hatch brought up the Super PACs that have come into Utah.
This week FreedomPath, which supports Hatch, has been running TV ads about the number of votes Liljenquist missed in his three-year state Senate career.
While the anti-Hatch FreedomWorks has not been running TV ads after the GOP state convention, Hatch tried Friday to tie Liljenquist to those attack ads.
“He is just repeating the talking points of FreedomWorks, the sleaziest group of people I’ve ever seen,” said Hatch.
Liljenquist said that FreedomPath is run by former employees of the national Republican Senate committee, who worked with Hatch over the years.
Hatch first said he’s had to endure more misleading and outright lies this campaign than any of his others, and it has been painful, “not fun.”
But then he pondered a moment, and said no; this has been a fun campaign because he’s gotten to meet Utahns in many parts of the state.
Officially, Super PACs’ employees can’t coordinate their work with candidate campaigns, although numerous media stories have pointed out the close associations a number of the PACs have with candidates and their top campaign workers.
Hatch will spend upwards of $10 million on this race, said Liljenquist. “I ask, and Utahns should ask, who will he be beholden to for all that money through his 37th through 42nd years in the Senate if he wins?”
Hatch said Utahns don’t much care about more debates. “We’ve had three between” the convention and primary campaigns.
While not predicting who won this encounter, Hatch said he will definitely win the GOP primary, “and no one will work harder for Utah over the next six years than me.”