Washington (CNN) – Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, told CNN Thursday that he is working hard to overcome the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent political mood gripping the nation as the midterm election approaches.
The Republican senator faces his first re-election challenge on Saturday, when he must finish first or second in the balloting at the state GOP convention in order to get a spot on the primary ballot.
"Why is your party so restless? What is in the water?," CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Bennett in an interview that will Thursday on CNN's "John King, USA."
"Well there's a great anger about Washington," Bennett said. "A lot of people say, 'We hate what's going on, we hate everybody who's there.' And in Utah, the only 'anybody' they can vote, vote against who happens to be there turns out to be me. I keep telling them: I'm not part of the problem. I'm part of the solution, and we'll see at the convention whether I can make that sale."
"But is that anger out there so palpable that maybe there's nothing you can do?," King asked.
"Well I think there is something I can do," the senator responded. "The anger is palpable. The anger's very strong and that's why I am in trouble. But if I meet with the [convention] delegates, if I spend time with them going through the facts, I find I can turn them around."
(CNN) - The Salt Lake Tribune, the city's largest newspaper, is urging Utah Republican delegates to send Sen. Bob Bennett "back to Washington."
The three-term senator is fighting for his political life as he battles for re-election this year. His predicament: because the Utah GOP uses a convention to help determine its nominee, Bennett might not even make it to a June primary. To advance to that primary, Bennett needs to win at least 40 percent of the vote of the 3,500 delegates attending the Utah GOP convention this Saturday. A primary will be avoided if any candidate secures 60 percent of the delegates' vote.
Two polls released earlier this week indicate that 50 percent of Utah voters see Sen. Bob Bennett in a favorable light, and that nearly four in ten likely Republican primary voters say they back Bennnet. But the senator doesn't fare as well in two other recent surveys of Republican convention delegates.
(CNN) - A new Deseret News/KSL poll indicates that 50 percent of Utah voters see Sen. Bob Bennett in a favorable light, with 39 percent holding an unfavorable view.
And according to a Salt Lake Tribune survey, nearly four in ten likely Republican primary voters say they back Bennnet, putting the three-term senator nearly 20 points ahead of his closer competitor.
Not bad numbers for a politician running for re-election – unless, of course, you face Bennett's predicament. His problem: because the Utah GOP uses a convention to help determine it's nominee, Bennett might not even make it to the June primary.
(CNN) - Two new polls suggest that Sen. Bob Bennett's fighting for his political life.
As the incumbent Utah Republican battles for re-election this year, he needs to win at least 40 percent of the vote of the 3,500 delegates attending the state GOP convention on May 18, to advance to a June primary.
But a new Salt Lake Tribune survey of 400 of those Republican delegates, released Tuesday, indicates that only 16 percent of them are supporting the three-term senator, putting Bennett in third place.
Washington (CNN) - The anti-tax Club for Growth has started a blitz of robocalls attacking Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a three-term incumbent being challenged on his right flank by multiple Republican candidates.
"Since Utahans last sent Sen. Bob Bennett to Washington, he voted to bail out Wall Street, voted for billions in wasteful spending like Alaska's 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" the 30-second call says. "Even joined with liberals supporting big government healthcare."
A spokesman for the Club said the calls have been going out for about a week.
"Had enough?," the call asks, before telling listeners to "vote for a change" in the state's March 23 Republican precinct caucuses. Those caucuses will determine delegates to the state GOP convention, where the party's Senate nominee will be selected.
The script is the same as an anti-Bennett television ad launched by the Club last week.
Update 5:25 p.m.: When reached for comment, campaign spokesman Jim Bennett told CNN that, "Bob Bennett is leading the fight against Obamacare. This is simply more of the same dishonest nonsense from an out-of-state special interest group trying to tell Utahns how to think. It's dirty politics, and Utah voters are smart enough not to fall for it."
(CNN) - Add another name to the growing list of Republicans challenging Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah, who's battling this year for a fourth term.
Former Republican Rep. Merrill Cook of Utah is scheduled Thursday to announce a primary challenge to Bennett. Cook held Utah's 2nd Congressional District for two terms, from 1997 to 2001. He lost his party's nomination in the 2000 election and the GOP lost the seat to Democrat Jim Matheson, who still holds the office.
Besides fighting against the overall anti-incumbent mood, Bennett also faces anger by many conservatives for his votes in 2008 in favor of the so-called Wall Street bailouts and last year's vote on bailing out the major American auto makers.
The fiscally conservative Club for Growth is working to defeat Bennett. So is FreedomWorks, another national organization that backs fiscally conservative causes. But Bennett has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which as a rule supports Republican incumbents running for re-election.
- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby contributed to this report
Washington (CNN) – If an anti-incumbent tide sweeps Sen. Bob Bennett out of Congress later this year, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a fellow Utah Republican, doesn't sound like he'll be too upset.
"The people are restless, they want to see change, and Sen. Bennett, with all due respect, he is going to have to go out and defend his record and explain some things to voters," Chaffetz told CNN Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Bennett is seeking a fourth term, but is battling a tough anti-incumbent mood and multiple Republican challengers who are upset with his votes for the banking and auto bailouts.
Chaffetz, an up-and-coming voice in the GOP, was first elected to Congress in 2008 despite opposition from Bennett and Sen. Orrin Hatch, both of whom backed incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon in that year's Republican primary. Chaffetz has publicly split with Bennett on a number of issues and even considered challenging the incumbent senator before ruling it out last year.
"More than ever policy and principles are paramount," Chaffetz said, offering praise for the Tea Party movement and its growing influence. "You have to go out and articulate your position and justify how you voted. If you don’t do that you could very well be on your way home with a one-way ticket."