May 8th, 2010
05:54 PM ET
4 years ago

Bennett's bid for fourth term ends at Utah GOP convention

Sen. Robert Bennett lost in the second round of balloting on Saturday, failing to secure the GOP nomination for Senate.
Sen. Robert Bennett lost in the second round of balloting on Saturday, failing to secure the GOP nomination for Senate.

Salt Lake City, Utah (CNN) – Facing significant anger aimed at Washington and at some of his past votes, Utah's Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was eliminated Saturday from seeking re-election to a fourth term, becoming the first incumbent to fall victim to the growing anti-Washington mood ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections.

Bennett came in third in a second round of balloting at the state party convention behind more conservative candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee. Lee and Bridgewater now will face off in one final round of balloting to see if one can get 60 percent of the vote. If not, then they will face each other in a June primary.

Bridgewater garnered 37.42 percent of the vote while Lee got 35.99 percent. Bennett was eliminated with 26.59 percent of the vote.

Before the voting, Bennett told reporters "this is obviously a difficult political environment."

Asked what it was like to deal with the attacks he has endured over the past few months, he said, "Obviously I prefer not to (have)" experienced the backlash, but said he has "done the best to soldier on."

Acknowledging the anger, frustration and a desire for change expressed by many of the delegates, the mild-mannered Bennett told the crowd in an earlier speech, "I hear you when you say you want a fighter who will reflect that passion, telling the world that Utahans love their country and are deeply concerned about its future."

Previous polls showed Bennett was facing the fight of his political life, lagging behind at least one of the other GOP candidates. As a result, Bennett had mounted an effort in recent weeks to increase his support. His campaign launched a television ad touting how much help Bennett as a Senate veteran can bring to the state vs. what a freshman could do - one of the major themes he emphasized to the delegates on Saturday although many told CNN they thought it was time for a change.

Bennett's elimination from the ballot likely will send shock waves throughout the political community with more incumbents worried they will also become the victims of the anti-Washington, anti-incumbency fervor that is being fueled at least in part by the Tea Party movement.

While Bennett had won the support of several conservative organizations and has received negative ratings from liberal groups, some of Bennett's critics focused on his vote for the 2008 financial bailout, known as TARP.

"I don't think it's a matter of conservative. I think it's a matter of fiscal or financial responsibility, what the Tea Party people are about and the
vote for TARP and the vote for the bailout was, in our opinion, pretty fiscally irresponsible and that's what's raised the ire of most people," David Kirkham, a Tea Party activist, told CNN in an interview.

Kirkham, a businessman who builds and restores sports cars, was so upset about the bailout issue that he was motivated to form the Utah Tea Party chapter last year.

"That one vote was pretty toxic," he said. "That one vote affected a lot of things, changed the rules of the game. President Bush said that where we have to abandon free market principles to save the free market and fundamentally, we just don't agree. There's just no way."

Bennett told CNN in an interview earlier this week that he had no regrets over that vote.

"I do not because we were facing a very genuine crisis," he said. "And I would not want my career to be marked with shirking my responsibility to prevent that crisis from happening since the financial system was at such risk."

He has also come under criticism for working with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, last year on a health care overhaul proposal, his pursuit of earmarks, and his votes supporting an increase in the national debt.


Filed under: 2010 • Bob Bennett • Utah
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Jim from Reno

    As a Democrat, I find this story sad. While I probably wouldn't vote for Bennet if I lived in Utah, I find the fact that the right wing Repubs are driving the decent more moderate out of their party....and the RNC Chairman Steele touts....yes, the Repubs have a "big tent." Maybe the tent is big but there appears to be an entrance test....not conservative or right wing enought...DO NOT ENTER!

    May 8, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    The Right-wing nuts eats another of their own. These republicans are out of touch with the american agenda. They have their eyes on their big money contribitor. The heck with the american people because we can not pay them the money these big oil companies and wall street crooks can. I think we should fire these idiots in November so wall street can give them a job.

    May 8, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  3. An 8 year old elephant dung heap does not turn into compost in just 18 months!

    November is going to be great.....for the Dems!

    Just keep up the "purity" testing for admission into the Rabid Nazi Committee!

    May 8, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. Kevin

    It's amazing to see how further out of touch the Republican party becomes with each passing day. They have the nerve to conitinue throwing around the word "socialism" to scare people away from Obama and the Democrats. What it amounts to is a bunch of people using a big word with little or no idea what it means to scare people with even less knowledge of the word. I keep reading about these Tea Partiers feeling a need to "punish" Republicans for past votes, or for not being conservative enough. Essentially, you are either %100 with us or you are against us. Sounds like fascism to me. The Republians didn't learn from their mistake in the presidential election when they chose "Joe the Plumber" as the "face of America". It isn't anymore. I think it's insulting how the right wingers always insist that what they say is what Americans want. Once again, they are saying that if you don't agree with everything they say, you are un-American. Voter turnout for midterm elections are historically small. You'll get a lot of the elderly people who are going to vote Republican regardless of what is going on in the world. To the old school way of thinking, Joe the Plumber is still the face of America. Obama will cruise to victory again in 2012 as the Republicans inch closer to being a regional party.

    May 8, 2010 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. Bassman

    I am a Republican and this is very good news. If you recall, Bennett stood up to applaud Barack Obama when Obama's safety net, his teleprompter, delivered to him word for word an unprecedented and undignified attack on Governor Palin during an address to a joint session of Congress last September. Hopefully after today, last September will be one of the last times that Bennett will ever be able to stand and applaud an extreme and radical partisan like Barack Obama as a member of Congress.
    Letterman, Conde Nast, Newsweek, and now Bennett have all paid a price for attacking Gov. Palin.

    May 8, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  6. john

    This is why the tea party is bad for the GOP and good for the dems. If anyone is interested google the median voter theorem to understand why this spells trouble.
    It is ironic though that one of the most conservative of the GOP senators will not even reach the primaries...
    Knowing the fact that besides in ultra conservative districts, most of these candidates will never be elected in a general election.
    I say this as a republican and I'm tempted to vote for the dem in my district if one of the tea party candidates gets passed the primary.

    May 8, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. Fed Up

    Vote 'em in. Vote 'em out until they get the message who is in charge. WhHen the Speaker of the House stands up and says she doesn't care what the American people want, that should be her last term, along with all the other clowns in Congress and Senate. I apologize if I have offended any clowns in the writing of this comment.

    May 8, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. fhjetta

    Bailouts and spending should doom all of these guys

    May 8, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. key

    Run as a Independent what gives with the GOP

    May 8, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  10. Len Smith

    As a Democrat, I would have to say that the senator was a good senator and deserved to run for another term. The people who denied him the chance have no idea what they are doing. To be against the TARP, or bailout, is like wanting to be against your Mother. We are far better off today with it then we would have been without it. The stimulas should have been twice the size and that too, is working for the good the this great country.

    May 8, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  11. Klaxon McFlinderginder

    Okay rubes, go on believing that putting in a fresh bunch of people in Washington will change anything . . . as is the new politicians won't encounter the same seductions and pressures that all the others have encountered.

    Okay yokels, keep pushing things to the right-wing radical fundamentalist extremes. The diversity of thought and approach that you are furiously trying to stamp out IS the freedom that the Founding Fathers wanted.

    Okay fools, keep believing in your twisted ideology, the one that you get over the radio every day, no matter how disconnected it is from reality. The fact is, America is great, and you are in a seething rage about how BAD it is!

    But don't listen to me; go turn on Limbaugh and find out what your opinions are today, just like everyday. Nincompoop!!!!

    May 8, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  12. key

    The free market is just nonsense. That old saying teach someone to fish and they want go hungry. WeLl it only works if their is fish to catch.

    May 8, 2010 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  13. Klaxon McFlinderginder

    The Tea Party will be dead after this election. They are either going to split the vote and help liberals win, or they are going to radicalize conservative candidates so much the the average American just won't vote for them, or they are going to allign with the Republicans and be subsumed into the conservative Borg.

    May 8, 2010 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  14. MAD 'MAX' TEXAN

    All incumbents need to BEWARE. They have worked for years not for us and now it is time to pay the piper. I don't care what party affiliation you call yourself. But until all the old gas explosions are out of office there is no way they will work for the people. They work for big business. This must change. AND COME NOVEMBER CHANGE IT WILL BE.

    May 8, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  15. Dennis in AZ

    Seeing tape of his exit speech? He did sound a bit like he was crying. I guess the lesson is "When your constituents speak, LISTEN." Also, when you swear you're going to self-term limit your stay in Washington, DC, you should probably do that or it will be done for you. Full disclosure? I support National Term Limits on every elected office–not to exceed 12 years in office, and cutting all the benefits/retirement for what is supposed to be Public Service. If you ask the Armed Forces to work for peanuts? Why should Senators and Congressman be different?

    May 8, 2010 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  16. Greg in Denver

    It's an incredible shame that Bennet is paying such a political price for doing the right thing. The bank bailouts were NOT about just bailing out Wall Street. It was about keeping this nation's banking system from collapsing which would have instantly thrown us into another great depression.

    Bush's economic advisors told him the same thing that Obama's economic advisors told him. The bailouts HAD to be done and had to be done QUICKLY for the sake of our country.

    People need to wake up. It will be the ignorance and misplaced anger of American voters that ultimately will be this country's undoing. And we have Fox News to thank for deliberately spreading this ignorance and stirring up the anger.

    May 8, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  17. Tired

    Just shows that people are sick and tired of liberal give away program mentality.If you want it get out and work for it.Just wait till reid and pelosi announce the big tax hike that is coming, to pay for the moronic overspending this admin and congress has done.

    May 8, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    The right wing of the GOP will be and is the death of the GOP. As they continue to nominate only extreme right wing candidates that the American people will reject again just as they have in the past 2 elections. As the GOP continues to listen to only 20% of the nation they are producing their own demise.

    Vote NO in NOvemeber to the party of NO.

    May 8, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  19. Gil

    Let the ignorant nut case extremists on the right keep trying to get in their leaders to the republican party and keep driving out all the moderates, which I used to be as a YR, to the democratic party or independents. Crist is now leading the race in Florida and I sure hope he remembers how he was treated and what happend to his picture portrait! The Party of No has gone crazy!

    May 8, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  20. Tam

    What age do people usually retire at?

    May 8, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  21. kmp

    It is very unfortunate the way UT is going. While Bennett may not be someone I favor he was supported by the majority of the people. It was the convention people who ousted him not the people. Unfortunately I think they think more conservative is better.

    May 8, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  22. Pragmatic

    Interesting about TARP: people like to complain about it but no on knows how bad the economy would have been without it: Recession (that we are starting to come out of) or Depression.

    These same people talk about "small government" ... I assume they want states to protect their own borders, Gulf States to clean up the BP oil spill & NYC to have the whole responsibility for catching terrorists? Just asking ...

    May 8, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  23. jilli

    Let the purge officially begin.

    Will this move make the republican party any better, any more effective? Seems like Bennet was a principled person and a solid traditional republican. I guess there's no room for folks like that in the gop anymore.

    May 8, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  24. InlandEmperor

    What a joke. This guy voted in the best interests of the country and he's villified. This is the same Party that supported the morons that put the country in the position that required this Senator to vote the way he did. Why don't you take the special interests hands...and money... out of your pockets and pursue the best interests of the country instead. Disgusting...and disappointing.

    May 8, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  25. Tony

    YES...at least the voters in Utah get it.....OUT WITH ALL INCUMBENTS!!! Let them join the rank of the unemployed. They got us in this mess and can't get us out. NEW BLOOD REQUIRED IN WASHINGTON, DC.

    May 8, 2010 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
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