Asked if he thought Romney's plan in Massachusetts was a mistake, Hatch didn't repeat the word, but emphasized, "States can do that. The federal government cannot." 

In the interview, Hatch also said that Obama and Senate Democrats aren't serious about cutting the deficit, calling their posture in the current spending debate "a joke" and slamming Obama for soft leadership.   

As for his own potential Tea Party primary challenge next year, Hatch said it hasn't changed his posture much, noting, "I've always had a pretty solid conservative voting record." 

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To those Tea Party activists who think he's not conservative enough, Hatch said, "I tell them to just look at those people who were on Captain Sullenberger's plane and landed in the Hudson. They survived because of experience. And that's what I have. I have experience that by any measure is conservative, and staunchly conservative." 

Hatch also had words of praise for the current ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, who is leaving his Obama administration post shortly to explore his own bid for the GOP nomination next year. 

He called Huntsman a good friend, but said, "I've been a Mitt Romney supporter from day one. My commitment has been there, and it's going to continue to be there."  

Hatch did say he gives Obama "credit" for how he's tried to turn Huntsman's service as ambassador to China against the former Utah governor as he weighs a 2012 run. 

"I've got to give the president credit," he said. "He's really good at slamming people with a soft touch that when you pick yourself up you wonder what hit you."