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In Utah, the Tea Party crowd claims a senatorial scalp

May 9, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — From the outset of Saturday’s Utah Republican Convention, it was clear that Sen. Robert Bennett faced a major fight to even survive to a primary. Delegates seemed most energized when given the opportunity to throw political punches, whether it was booing pictures of national Democratic leaders or cheering any mention of God, the Constitution, or Ronald Reagan.

Bennett’s political career ended at just after 3 P.M. local time in downtown Salt Lake City, when the Republicans eliminated him as a candidate, with only 27 percent of the 3,500 delegates supporting him. One ballot later it was decided that there would be a primary between Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee, with the winner of that race almost assuredly the next senator from reliably Republican Utah.

Even Bennett realized early in the day that his career was, very likely, about to end. In its last-ditch bid for survival, his campaign went with a personal pitch, dispensing paraphernalia that depicted the 76-year-old lawmaker as a friend, a neighbor, a grandfather. His campaign signs included hand-painted placards with phrases like “Vote for my grandpa,” and he was introduced by Mitt Romney as a “man of faith and family.”

In both of his speeches — candidates had seven minutes before the first ballot and one minute after the second ballot — Bennett emphasized how valuable his experience would be in Washington, especially with the potential incumbent carnage this November.

“I can do this because I now have tools that I lacked as a freshman,” Bennett said. “Let me use them …. I don’t want to walk into retirement.”

Delegates, however, did not buy that experience was a necessary qualification. Instead, they wanted a new face who would stand for conservative principles instead of crossing the aisle to craft a healthcare reform plan, as Bennett did. There was also obvious frustration with his vote in favor of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), although little mention of it was made by candidates.

2010 Elections
SATURDAY, MAY 8, 2010 20:28 ET
In Utah, the Tea Party crowd claims a senatorial scalp
Irate members of the Republican Party base gather in Salt Lake City and end the career of a three-term U.S. senator
AP/Steve C. Wilson


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