[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/20/art.bennett.0203.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah said Thursday that he will not pursue a write-in campaign for Senate."]Washington (CNN) – Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah said he would not launch a write-in bid to keep his seat.
"I will not run a write-in campaign for the Senate race in Utah," Bennett told reporters Thursday.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Bennett failed to garner enough Republican support at a state party convention to qualify for the primary ballot in next month's Utah primary. Facing significant anger aimed at Washington and at some of his past votes, Bennett was eliminated by the 3,500 delegates at the convention from seeking re-election as a Republican. He was the first incumbent to fall victim to the growing anti-Washington mood ahead of this year's midterm elections.
Bennett came in third in a second round of balloting at the party convention behind candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee. In a final round of voting, neither Lee nor Bridgewater won 60 percent of the vote needed to win the nomination. They will now face each other in a primary election June 22.
"This has been the nastiest race that we have had for a party nomination in the history of the state of Utah, for a statewide office," said Bennett.
The three-term senator told reporters that he would be the strongest candidate in the general election, and added that "the outpouring of support and urging that I do run a write in campaign has been very strong not only from across the state and from every aspect of the state, but also from other parts of the political world, particularly my colleagues here in Washington."
But he says he feared running would further divide the GOP.
"My own examination of the cost that it would take and the toll that would be taken on the situation in Utah both led me to come down on the side of not to do it," added Bennett.
The senator told reporters he has not made any decision on endorsing either Lee or Bridgewater and has also not decided what he may do next.
Bennett upset many conservatives with his vote in 2007 in favor of President George W. Bush's plan for a pathway for citizenship for some illegal immigrants, and his 2008 vote in favor of the federal bailout of large banks and financial institutions. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth actively worked to defeat Bennett, as did some national and local Tea Party organizations.
A Salt Lake Tribune poll of Utah Republican voters conducted last month suggested that Bennett could have had qualified for the primary, he may well have won the contest. And a Deseret News/KSL survey also conducted last month indicated that 50 percent of all Utah voters saw Bennett in a favorable light, with 39 percent holding an unfavorable view.
Bennett did not take any questions following his announcement.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn