Published: Feb 11, 2011 9:10 PM EST
Updated: Feb 11, 2011 6:11 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tea party favorite Sen. Mike Lee says he won't endorse fellow Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch's re-election in the 2012 GOP primary.

Lee said Friday on MSNBC that he would be neutral in the race until the primary is decided.

Lee's decision was seen as a blow to Hatch, who is seeking tea party support for re-election and is expected to face a conservative primary challenge.

Lee was one of two candidates who drummed former GOP Utah Sen. Bob Bennett out of office last year by besting him in a party convention vote, scoring a victory for the tea party movement.

Hatch was elected to the Senate in 1976.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)