SALT LAKE CITY -- U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch meets his two key challengers Monday evening in a second and final debate before this weekend's state GOP convention.
With less a week until Utah Republicans choose their candidate, the debate is the best opportunity for the two contenders -- former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod -- to sway delegates in their favor.
Hatch, who's seeking his seventh term, will need at least 60 percent of the delegate vote on Saturday to avoid a primary.
Monday's debate was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dixie State College in St. George.
Based on initial observations from all sides, Hatch had strong support among Republicans who attended caucus meetings in late March and elected the 4,000 delegates who will go to the state convention. In particular, attendees lacked the anti-incumbent sentiment that was palatable in 2010 and led to the eventual ouster of three-term U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett.
The first debate of the race was held April 4 in Salt Lake City. Topics ranged from potential military base closures to federal land control but returned repeatedly to the increasing federal debt.
The three candidates also traded barbs over the importance of the seniority and experience that Hatch has made a cornerstone of his campaign, which he has also said would be his last.
The candidates have been spending the remaining days before Saturday's convention attending county gatherings with small groups of delegates in living rooms, cafes and community centers, attempting to grab every vote, one hand shake at a time.