Apparently Utah's U.S. Senator Bob Bennett is concerned about Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's trial-ballooning a prospective 2010 Republican primary challenge - so much so that Bennett has taken pre-emptive measures. KSL Channel 5 reports that Senator Bennett invited Shurtleff to serve as co-chair of his 2010 re-election campaign. This is also discussed in part in a March 5th Salt Lake Tribune article.
The offer was disclosed by Shurtleff himself, who made headlines on February 26th, 2009 by announcing a possible run against Bennett in 2010, primarily out of concerns about the economy. Shurtleff strongly disagrees with Obama's stimulus package. Shurtleff told local media that shortly after he announced his intentions, he got a call from Bennett tendering the offer. Shurtleff reportedly told Bennett he was honored, then asked Bennett if it had anything to do with the news he may be a challenger.
According to Shurtleff, Bennett then told him that he (Shurtleff) couldn't beat him (Bennett), because Bennett doesn't consider himself to be another Chris Cannon. But Bennett has expected a Republican challenger in this upcoming election and has already started aggressively positioning himself. Other prospective challengers include Mike Lee, who was Governor Huntsman's former general counsel, and former Juab County Attorney David Leavitt.
The Deseret News also reports that Bennett may have firmed up his re-election chances by swapping the position of ranking Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture in exchange for the position of ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water. Bennett further extended his Congressional reach by joining the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
In his new Energy and Water position, Bennett will gain additional power to seek funding for Utah water and energy projects. He intends to use his new position to continue to push for completion of the Central Utah Project, designed to bring water from eastern Utah to the Wasatch Front, and cleanup of the Atlas uranium tailings site near Moab.
This is an extremely savvy political move on Bennett's part, because energy and water issues clearly take precedence over agricultural issues in Utah at present. He has increased the relevancy of his political stewardship to Utahns and has made himself more electable in one fell swoop.
Shurtleff has been meeting this week with fundraisers in Washington D.C. and is considering family matters before announcing whether or not he'll run for Senate. If he ever goes to the Senate, he will not move his family to Washington D.C. But he will have an uphill fight if he runs; Salt Lake Crawler reports that Daily Kos commissioned a poll by Research 2000 which shows that in a head-to-head primary contest between Bennett and Shurtleff, Bennett gets 46 percent, Shurtleff 20 percent, with 34 percent Undecided.
Consequently, although Bob Bennett may be boring, he is certainly effective, and has taken steps to increase his effectiveness. Should Utah give up Bennett's seniority simply because he is boring? I don't believe Mark Shurtleff could beat Bob Bennett.
But another issue is health. Since breaking a leg in a motorcycle accident, Mark Shurtleff has had seven surgeries, the most recent in August 2008. You can read the "gorier" details HERE. Doctors say if the latest surgery doesn't work, amputation is the next step. Consequently, I question whether Shurtleff's leg could withstand the strain of a tough political campaign.
Mark Shurtleff would be better off waiting two more years, allowing his leg to fully heal, and then run against Orrin Hatch, who is truly ineffective and has essentially been "retired on active duty" since his celebrity presidential campaign in 2000. Hatch can be defeated and deserves to lose should he have the audacity to run again.