It's unclear exactly whom he was talking about, but Sen. Orrin Hatch evidently thinks there are some "nuts" hailing from both parties in the U.S. Senate.
Interviewed by host Judy Woodruff at The Atlantic's Jobs and the Economy of the Future forum at the Newseum this morning, Hatch was talking about reducing federal spending, and how he needs help from members of his own party.
"We've always had three to six moderates [in the Republican Senate caucus]...who will go with Democrats on all the spending issues," the Utah senator said. "They're diminishing right now, and we hope we can diminish them a few more, not by losing them, but by keeping the ones we have but by expanding."
Then he seemingly concluded that some of his GOP colleagues are "nuts."
"We don't need nuts in the United States Senate, we need fiscal conservatives, and we've got some nuts on the other side and every once in a while we may find some on our side," Hatch said.
Perhaps Hatch was referencing some of the tea party candidates who ran for Senate last year. Tea partiers drew the "nut" moniker more frequently than liberal candidates in 2010: Nevada's Sharron Angle and Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, for instance, was described as nutty by more than one observer. Angle's views, especially, are about as fiscally conservative as views get. Both Angle and O'Donnell lost, but tea partiers Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, and Mike Lee (of Hatch's home state) all won their races and entered the Senate.
"They're all online, they can figure out who the nuts are," Hatch said of the young people watching the forum, some of whom had tuned in online from Miami University in Ohio. "You'll find most of them on the Democratic side."
Hatch has recently courted tea party activists, appearing at a Tea Party Express forum in Washington, DC this week. Not all tea partiers like him, though, and it's conceivable that Hatch could face a primary challenge from a tea partier in 2012. Conservatives in that state challenged and defeated former Sen. Bob Bennett (R) in 2010.
Hatch has a lifetime rating of 89.47 from the American Conservative Union, which scores senators based on their voting records on taxes, spending, cultural issues, defense and foreign policy. Bennett exited Congress with a lifetime 83.76 rating.
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