Orrin Hatch struggles to compliment Ted Cruz: 'He's not one who does a terrific job in the Senate'
Orrin Hatch speaks to KTSU (screen grab)

As Sen. Ted. Cruz (R-TX) surges in Utah GOP primary polls, one influential senator from the state suggested on Monday that he was not ready to lead the candidate's fan club.

During an interview with KTSU in Salt Lake City, hosts Dan Evans and Kerri Cronk asked Utah's senior senator if he had a favorite presidential candidate.

"I'm not really supporting anybody right now," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) explained. "Trump is making a lot of headway around this country, Cruz makes headway in a limited degree. Kasich is a terrific governor. He was the chairman of the budget committee in the House. I lived through this, worked with him, and he was easy to work with. And we balanced the budget two years in a row."

Cronk observed that "it sounds like Ted Cruz is your last choice."

"I don't know about that," Hatch demurred. "Ted is a very smart guy. He's a good lawyer. He's not one of those who really does a terrific job in the Senate."

"You know, some people love that," he admitted, adding, "I'm going to support whoever the nominee is."

Hatch also defended his position on refusing to give President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee a vote, even though he had once said that there was "no question" that Merrick Garland could be confirmed as a justice.

"If you look at what's happened since, there are a lot of questions in many of the Republicans' minds on whether he would be wrong on just about every issue that Republicans think are important," the senator opined. "From abortion to gun rights to the Second Amendment to all kinds of other union and anti-union type things."

Hatch said that he still thought "highly" of Garland: "It's not the person, it's the timing."

"If the roles were reversed and we had a Republican president and a Democrat [sic] control of the Judiciary Committee, I guarantee they would never let a vote," he argued. "This is one of the most horrific campaigns I've seen. You would put this right in the middle of that? It would be a terrifically sad thing, and I think it would demean the court."

"I think that the hard part," Cronk noted, "is that a lot of people, your average Joe is wondering, if you have someone that's qualified, someone that you've endorsed in the past, put politics aside, and just let the process move forward."

"You can't just put politics aside," Hatch replied. "In every respect, this is probably the most important pick in many decades. If they succeed in taking over the Supreme Court, they'll have control over for probably 30 years."

Watch the video below from KSTU, broadcast March 21, 2016.