(West Des Moines, IA) The latest Republican to launch a presidential campaign is making his first trip to Iowa, the site of an early test in the campaign, admitting he’s behind but expecting “a miracle.”

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch met privately with potential supporters on Sunday before attending a picnic in an exclusive, gated Des Moines suburb known as Glen Oaks on Sunday evening.

“I have to say that somebody said ‘Aren’t you just a day late and a dollar short getting into this race on July 1st?’ I said, ‘No, I’m two years late and 36 million dollars short,” Hatch said, referring to frontrunner George W. Bush’s campaign coffers.

Hatch told the crowd of 100 that “money doesn’t buy elections. Ideas win elections.”

Hatch said he’d been encouraged to seek the presidency many times, but had always resisted after being told candidates had to “sell their soul” to run for president.

“And I thought to myself I couldn’t do that, but I’ll tell you one thing I can do. I can run as the people’s candidate. Basically, what I’m asking all over this country is for people to send $36 plus and if I get a million of ’em I’ll get two or three million more and I’ll tell you something, I won’t be beholden to any special interest group. I’ll be beholden to the people of this country,” Hatch said.

Hatch has been a United States Senator for the past 23 years, and in his remarks focused on action pending in the Senate as well as his ideas on tax reform, defense, education, crime fighting and nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hatch enters the race weeks before a crucial early test, a strawpoll to be staged in Ames by the Iowa Republican Party. Bush is expected to win the contest, but Hatch urged his Sunday night audience to attend, promising performances by the Osmond Brother, Vic Damone and Roger Miller.

“You know, all we have to do is meet the rather low expectations of us. When I filed, those who don’t know me thought that was crazy at the last minute. They said it would take a miracle to elect Orrin Hatch President. Well, I want you to know my life has been a life of miracles,” Hatch said.

Hatch described his childhood as a life of poverty. His parents lost the family home in Pittsburg shortly after his birth, then moved to a wooded area in the city.

“My dad borrowed 50 bucks to buy an acre of ground which he paid off a dollar a month…in the hills of Pittsburg in the wooded section, he built our home there out of a torn down, burned out building,” Hatch said. “We didn’t have indoor facilities. I know what it’s like to be hungry.”

Hatch, who once worked as a janitor and as a construction tradesman, said he raised chickens as a boy and sold eggs and chickens to the neighbors.

“And I have to tell you that later that chicken coop because Elaine and my first home as we went to law school at the University of Pittsburg. I couldn’t have gone there if I didn’t have a full honors scholarship and lived in that chicken coop,” Hatch said.

Many in the crowd who listened to Hatch’s story were Mormons, including Darlene Duncan of Des Moines.

“I know he’s an honest, trustworthy man. He stands up for what he believes in and I just feel that he’s the best man,” Duncan said.

Hatch’s host for the evening, insurance executive Doug Andersen, said the Utah Senator is a “marvelous” candidate.

“He’s a new face in Iowa and I think that’s refreshing. There’s a lot of (presidential candidates) that we’ve seen here time after time and I think he is welcomed here,” Andersen said.

On Monday, Hatch will tour a Des Moines dairy before leaving the state that hosts precinct caucuses in February, 2000.