GOP History Defied as Sen. Bennett Beaten

May 9, 2010 19:45

The defeat of Utah Sen. Robert Bennett at a Republican state convention on Saturday defied political history.

by  John Gizzi at Human Events

The defeat of Utah Sen. Robert Bennett at a Republican state convention on Saturday defied political history.

Since the end of World War II, more than 60 Democratic U.S. senators have been denied re-nomination by their respective state parties.  Whether they were Southern “bourbons” such as Tennessee’s venerable Sen. Kenneth McKellar (ousted in 1952 by the namesake-father of Al Gore) to centrist Democrats who upset their liberal base such as Joe Lieberman of Connecticut who lost to an anti-war Democrat in the 2006 primary, (Lieberman was re-elected that year as an independent), quite a few Democratic senators have been dealt political death sentences by their own parties over the past 64 years.

Not so Republicans. Perhaps because they respect history and tradition, Republicans tend to give their incumbent senators the benefit of the doubt and keep them in office.  For all the liberal votes cast by and ill-will among conservatives generated by Pennyslvania’s Republican Sen. Arlen Specter by 2004, conservative Pat Toomey still fell short of taking him out in the primary.  (Specter, of course, is now running again as a Democrat).

And from the stunning primary defeat of Wisconsin’s longtime Sen. Robert LaFollette in 1946 by a young Marine veteran named Joe McCarthy to the defeat Saturday of three-term Sen. Bennett of Utah,  Republicans have ousted their own sitting senators less than ten times in GOP primary contests over the last 64 years. That is why Bennett’s elimination as a candidate by delegates to the state GOP convention is so dramatic.  Republicans just don’t do this.  But after placing third on the first two ballots to the party conclave, the 76-year-old senator was eliminated from the competition.  Two candidates who ran to Bennett’s right—lawyer Mike Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater—garnered 57% and 43% of the vote respectively on the third ballot.  With neither getting the 60% of the convention vote required for nomination, Lee and Bridgewater will square off in a primary this summer.


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