Just one week after announcing his challenge to U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, and before I could even learn to spell his name from memory, Utah businessman Fred Lampropoulos has decided to bow out of the race against Bennett. Media story from the Salt Lake Tribune.
Lampropoulos, the CEO of Merit Medical, changed his mind because of what he termed an unexpected, tantalizing and still secret business opportunity. "At the end of the day, I could not walk away from this opportunity," he said in an interview on December 3rd shortly after participating in a job summit at the White House. He refused to detail the new business opportunity other than to say it would be an acquisition he has had his eye on for some time. If successful, it would result in hundreds of new jobs. Lampropoulos still believes Bennett should be replaced, but he isn't sure who he will back, although I have a feeling he'll eventually back Tim Bridgewater or perhaps Mike Lee if Lee jumps in.
And yes, he admits his sudden volte-face makes him look silly, so I guess I won't say it. But he did strike me as either a single-issue candidate (he was complaining about proposed new taxes on medical devices), or a red herring positioned to siphon votes away from Bennett's strongest Republican competitor, Cherilyn Eagar. So I didn't really take him seriously anyway. I also don't think Bob Bennett was exactly shaking in his shoes, either. On December 1st, the Deseret News reported that Bennett is still far ahead of his Republican challengers in a Dan Jones poll taken November 19-23.
A separate Tribune story describes the economic summit attended by Lampropoulos, who was one of over 130 civic and business leaders invited by President Barack Obama to the White House on December 3rd to discuss ways to spur immediate job growth as the nation crawls out of a deep economic recession. The official national unemployment rate is 10.2 percent -- the highest in a quarter century -- and it will likely climb when the new figure is released today (the unofficial unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up actively looking for work, is estimated to be as high as 20 percent). Utah's official unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent in October.
At the summit, Lampropoulos joined 29 other people in a subgroup discussing job creation and spurring competition. Business leaders weren't the only participants; the group also included university presidents, economists, nonprofit leaders and union representatives. His group discussed the sense of uncertainty surrounding major policy initiatives such as health care, regulatory reform and energy, which has CEOs hesitant about the potential impacts on their businesses. Lampropoulos encouraged the government to create a five-year tax credit for research and development instead of deciding on the funding annually.
"It was more engaging than I thought it was going to be," Lampropoulos said afterward. "I think there were some very good ideas put on the table."