Via Salt Lake Crawlmeister Glen Warchol, I found out that a bunch of local Republican bigwigs held a powwow in Orem, Utah on August 31st, 2009, and that incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Bob Bennett finished last in an unofficial straw poll of Republican Senate candidates.
The "gory" details are actually posted by a first-rate Utah political blogger, HollyOnTheHill. It was a Utah County Republican party barbecue and family party with hundreds of people present. Notables included Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Governor Gary Herbert, U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, and three of Bennett's Republican opponents: Mark Shurtleff, Cherilyn Eagar, and James Williams. Many other Utah County representatives and senators were also there for the mass grip-and-grin.
But perhaps the political highlight of the evening was an "unscientific" straw poll for three Senate candidates. Mark Shurtleff received 42 percent, Cherilyn Eagar 32 percent, and three-term incumbent Bob Bennett straggled home last with 26 percent. Neither James Williams nor Tim Bridgewater were considered. Holly seems to think the poll reflects the growing dissatisfaction with Washington DC and incumbent federal legislators.
And Holly is indeed correct - but like so many other Utah political observers (except for the Provo Daily Herald), she failed to account for an absolutely inexplicable move by Senator Bennett. Bennett has allowed former Bush hatchetman Karl Rove to unofficially join his campaign. Now think about that for a moment. Rove is associated with the most controversial excesses of the Bush Administration. He is almost universally hated by the left, and derided by much of the paleoconservative right. Karl Rove is a centerfold for neo-conservatism, and regular readers of this blog should know by now that neocons trace their political ancestry back to Leon Trotsky. The godfather of modern neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, was a fan of Trotskyite Communism in his youth.
Yet Bob Bennett has allowed Rove to stump for him - and actually expects to get re-elected.
Karl Rove, who is actually a graduate of Olympus High School, may be an honorable man on a personal level. But his political reputation as a Bush operative is so odious that association with him is politically damning. Don't forget, Rove was implicated in the involuntary outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. By accepting public support from Rove, Bob Bennett shows how disconnected he is from the Utah constituency. It may prove fatal to his re-election chances.
NewsHive had this to say about the straw poll:
This is a definite win for AG Shurtleff, but a bigger win for Eagar and a major loss for Sen. Bennett. The three-term incumbent should have taken 75-80%, and would have, if he’d been representing his constituents properly. Dissatisfaction in the ranks, if it continues at this level, means his career will end at next year’s Republican convention, where only two contenders will continue to the primary (unless one gets 60% of the delegate votes).
It is far too early to make any realistic predictions, but if Senator Bennett thinks he’s going to skate back into the Senate on his record, or a claim that he’s the conservative many voters are seeking, he’s going to need a realtor for that DC mansion very soon.
I consider this a reasonably sound assessment, but it must be noted that so far, it only reflects Utah County, the "reddest" county in the state. Bennett undoubtedly would do better in Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber Counties, as well as in Obama County...oops, I meant Summit County.
Also covering the Orem event was the Provo Daily Herald, which published a story HERE. Karl Rove was to appear in Orem, but bowed out at the last moment. He was in town primarily for his 40th high school reunion at Olympus High.