Republican Senator Bob Bennett, who has represented Utah since 1993,
lost his own party's convention on Saturday to two challengers, both new
to politics, who will compete for the GOP nomination to run for Senate
in a June primary. Both challengers were supported by various Tea Party
activists and group, making Saturday's convention a watershed moment for
the movement's political clout. Here's how they did it and what it will
- First Such Tea Party Victory The Washington Post's
Amy Gardner dubs Bennett "the
first sitting senator to fall in the ideological battle being waged in
his party. Although he has long been viewed as a reliable conservative
with deep Mormon roots, Republicans rallied behind two other candidates
-- neither of whom has held political office. ... National tea party
organizers embraced the victory as a major first step toward returning
the Republican Party to its conservative foundations of limited
government and low taxes."
- Big Tea Party Moment, But This Is
Utah The Atlantic's Chris Good calls this the
"biggest victory yet" for the Tea Party, "having put a true Tea
Party-style candidate on a GOP ballot for U.S. Senate, for the first
time ever." However, "Don't read too much into it. Utah is a very
conservative state. The GOP primary electorate more conservative there
than almost anywhere else. So if this was going to happen, Utah seems
like the place."
- Why It's Not As Big As You Think
Statistics wonk Nate Silver explains,
"Although a dramatic development in a state which rarely makes political
headlines, my guess is that people are going to read a bit too much
into the national implications of this. The 3,500 delegates who select
Utah's Republican candidates -- chosen at local precinct meetings -- are
highly informed and extremely conservative activists who are not
representative of Utah Republicans as a whole nor the Republican primary
electorates in other states. Some polling has suggested that Bennett
would have been favored to win a conventional primary, although there
were no guarantees."
- Even Conservative Republicans In Trouble
It's not just the moderate GOP incumbents who have to worry, says
Newsweek's Andrew Romano. "So far this
election cycle, the establishment or incumbent Republicans who've found
themselves on the receiving end of a serious Tea Party primary challenge
have been at least somewhat moderate. Think Mark Kirk in Illinois.
Charlie Crist in Florida. John McCain in Arizona. Not anymore. ... During his three terms in office, Bennett almost
never deviated from strict conservative orthodoxy." But that's
not enough for Tea Partiers, whose demand for purity makes almost any
Tea Parties Look For Next Target The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza predicts, "Tea party supporters from
across the nation had targeted Bennett as part of the problem in
Washington and, with his defeat, are almost certain to be further
energized to beat other GOP incumbents and candidates who they feel are
not representing the core values of the party. The next race to watch in
the ongoing fight between the GOP establishment and the tea party wing
of the party is in Kentucky."
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