Hatch to face Tea Partiers in online town hall Tuesday

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will face Tea Party activists at a town hall meeting on Tuesday night, the senator said Monday.

Hatch will be one of the participants in a town hall meeting for members of Congress hosted by Tea Party Express tomorrow night at the National Press Club.

He tweeted about it on Monday:

I'll be joining @OurCountryPAC for the Tea Party Express Town Hall meeting tomorrow night. Watch or ask questions at http://is.gd/ayYa7e

Hatch will join several other Republicans at the meeting, all of whom are more closely allied with the group of grassroots conservative activists. What's more significant is that Hatch is one of the GOP senators expected to face a primary challenge from the Tea Party movement in 2012.

The veteran GOP senator is looking to avoid the fate his former Utah colleague, Sen. Bob Bennett (R), faced last year. Bennett lost the Republican nomination at a state convention to Mike Lee, the Republican candidate who was eventually elected as senator, and will participate in tomorrow's town hall. (Other participants include Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).)

Hatch has sought to stave off a challenge by making early entreaties to Tea Party groups, tomorrow's appearance being one of them. Sal Russo, the chief strategist for this particular Tea Party group, has signaled that Hatch might not deserve a challenge. But the fiscally conservative Club for Growth publicly disagreed, and hinted that it might support a challenger to Hatch.

One possible high-profile challenger is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a former state official who's considered but passed on a chance to challenge Bennett last year.