Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Over the weekend, a Utah GOP convention failed to nominate Sen. Bob Bennett in his third re-election bid to Congress.
When a party rejects its own incumbent in a primary -- and he's a mild-mannered Uncle Bob type not involved in a sex scandal or facing criminal indictment -- that's huge.
On the one hand, it's healthy when voters demonstrate that no incumbent owns his or her seat. On the other hand, when party voters demand the kind of purity sought by Bennett's opponents, they risk triggering a stampede from the center. And woe be the lawmaker who works across the aisle. The far side is running the party.
Bennett, 76, was undone by a system that allowed 3,500 convention delegates to decide that businessman Tim Bridgewater and attorney Mike Lee would face off in the June 22 primary.
They prevailed because the anti-tax Club for Growth waged a successful campaign that urged delegates to reject Bennett because he supported President Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and has been an aggressive ear-marker. Citizens Against Government Waste recently ranked Bennett among earmarkers as the 14th largest spender.
As club spokesman Mike Connolly put it, after Bennett went back on his 1992 term-limits pledge, "He's really become a Washington creature. He's an appropriator."
Thus, Connolly crowed, the weekend's results were a victory, as the GOP nominee, whoever he is, will be more conservative than Bennett, and sure to win in November.
As Connolly put it, "It really was a matter of what kind of a Republican do you want to send" to Washington?
Not so fast.
As of my deadline, Bennett had not ruled out a write-in foray. After Connecticut Democrats rejected Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006, he ran as an independent and beat Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.
Now, it doesn't bother me to watch a D.C. earmark prince forfeit his precious position because he was too free with other people's money. Kudos to voters who let Washington know they don't want pork.
But it's hard to celebrate when the other big hit against Bennett was that he co-authored an alternative health care bill with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. That is, he is being penalized for trying to get things done.
Asked about Bennett at a press conference Monday, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she saw Bennett's ouster as proof that Republicans don't want lawmakers who are willing to depart from the party line.
Not that Boxer considers Bennett particularly centrist. "He probably voted with us five times," said Boxer. It was an interesting observation, given that the 2010 Almanac of American Politics rated Boxer as the third most liberal senator, with a liberal score of 90 percent. The Almanac labeled Bennett as a centrist because of his 34 percent liberal/66 percent conservative voting record.
Which goes to show that being far left or far right is the safe spot inside the 2010 Beltway.
"He's a moderate, and I don't want a moderate. I don't want somebody on the fence. I want someone completely on the right," delegate Pam Wilson told Politico.com.
What's that old saw about being careful what you wish for? All or nothing means: all or nothing.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter, the Rasmussen Report on radio and other media outlets.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on Election 2012, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.