OGDEN -- U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch on Tuesday disputed the results of a recent poll that shows Utahns would prefer former Gov. Jon Huntsman over him as the 2012 Republican nominee for his seat.
Hatch said, following a luncheon address to members of various local service clubs at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center, there is no indication Huntsman, who is U.S. ambassador to China, is interested in a Senate bid.
Hatch added he nevertheless would likely win re-election even if Huntsman runs.
"I'm one tough guy," he said.
Results of a Utah Policy/Exoro Group poll released last week showed that 48 percent of Utahns would prefer Huntsman as the Republican nominee for the Senate, while 21 percent chose Hatch.
Twenty-three percent surveyed said they would prefer U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, as the nominee. The remainder of those surveyed said they wanted someone else for the nominee or didn't know whom they would support.
Huntsman may have bigger political aspirations than the Senate and might make a bid for the presidency in 2012, Hatch said.
He also noted Huntsman recently purchased a $3.5 million home in the Washington, D.C., area. "He wants to be in Washington," Hatch said.
Hatch's speech drew a large crowd and included security provided by several uniformed Ogden police officers.
The police presence was likely in response to an increased national effort aimed at protecting politicians at public events in the wake of the Jan. 8 shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, at a Tucson shopping center.
However, Hatch said he isn't overly worried about his safety, adding he has been threatened in the past.
Addressing another topic, Hatch said if he wins re-election in 2012, he expects to be named chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Finance. He's already a senior member of the committee.
Hatch said about 60 percent of all federal funds flow through the committee and pledged as chairman to bring fiscal order to Medicaid and Medicare programs.
"It (Medicaid and Medicare) is running out of control," he said. "We would get it under control after I become chairman."
Hatch also addressed the recent release of thousands of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning has been charged by the federal government with illegally disclosing some of the documents WikiLeaks has released.
Hatch said it is alarming that someone was able to gain access to the classified cables.
Hatch also spoke about the importance of the $1.5 billion Falcon Hill project at Hill Air Force Base that will ultimately include 8 million square feet of office space, restaurants and hotels on 550 acres.
Falcon Hill, which is a public-private venture of the state, Hill and Woodbury Corporation, should guarantee that the base will continue to be viable, Hatch said.
"It's going to make it more solid than ever," he said.