Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzSecret Service agents set for discipline after fence-jumping incident: report Overnight Cybersecurity: House Intel chair says surveillance collected on Trump transition team House Oversight grills law enforcement on facial recognition tech MORE (R-Utah) announced Monday that he won’t challenge Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Utah) in a 2012 primary battle.
After months of saber-rattling by the conservative, second-term lawmaker about a potential challenge to Hatch, Chaffetz said that he won't run, The Salt Lake Tribune reported this afternoon.
“If I were to run an interparty battle it would be a multimillion-dollar bloodbath,” Chaffetz at a press conference in Utah, according to the paper. “I don’t think that’s necessarily in my best interests. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our party, the nation or our state.”
"We wish Congressman Chaffetz the best in his congressional campaign and in his continued service as one of Utah's representatives," said Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen in reaction. "Senator Hatch looks forward to continuing to work together as a delegation to find solutions to the critical issues facing Utah and our nation."
The veteran Utah senator had tacked to the right by partnering with his fellow Utahn Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeThis week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat Lawmakers signal fight for healthcare reform is not over Lee: Healthcare 'absolutely not' behind us MORE (R), a Tea Party favorite, to forcefully support a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hatch had also aligned himself with conservatives on a series of votes this session, voting against the most recent debt-ceiling compromise and against the 2011 budget compromise that prevented a government shutdown.
The two have also traded barbs through the press in what had been seen as a preview of the eventual campaign. Hatch said he thought Chaffetz could be a "halfway decent congressman" if he were to focus on his job, while Chaffetz questioned Hatch's voting record during a long career in the Senate.
At the same time, Hatch's campaign has courted high-profile conservative pundits to endorse his renomination. Radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin lent their support to Hatch, which his campaign proudly trumpeted.
The campaign is a study in contrasts from Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who's also facing the threat of a conservative primary challenger but has embraced defended some of the centrist votes he's made.
Hatch appears to have learned from the experience of his former Utah colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R), who lost renomination to Lee in the 2010 primary process. Bennett aggressively stood by his record as an establishment-minded Republican at a party convention last year dominated by Tea Party activists.
Chaffetz had said earlier that he planned to make a decision on the race sometime later this year; the late August announcement is much sooner than expected.
The congressman's decision not to run for Senate doesn't forestall a future career in the upper chamber — Chaffetz is still relatively young. His decision also wouldn't guarantee that Hatch won't still face a primary challenger, though no conservative candidate would have the kind of experience and infrastructure that Chaffetz would have brought to the contest.
Updated 9:37 p.m.