Only 24 hours after the release of a Dan Jones poll on Utah's Republican U.S. Senate race, the Salt Lake Tribune has released the results of its own poll. And when you combine the two polls of delegates to the upcoming May 8th Republican state convention, four conclusions are readily apparent:
(1). Mike Lee will either be in the June 22nd primary or win the nomination outright at the convention.
(2). Tim Bridgewater has a legitimate shot at a primary slot.
(3). Bob Bennett still has a chance to get a primary slot, but could be eliminated at the convention.
(4). Cherilyn Eagar, despite her best efforts, is now only a longshot, but can still wield considerable "kingmaking" power at the convention.
The poll, commissioned by the Tribune, was taken by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C., who has been used by the Tribune in previous polls. During the period April 22-25, Mason-Dixon asked 400 delegates to name their first choice as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate. The results:
-- Mike Lee: 37 percent
-- Tim Bridgewater: 20 percent
-- Bob Bennett" 16 percent
-- Cherilyn Eagar: 11 percent
-- Merrill Cook: 1 percent
-- Not Sure: 15 percent
Oh, by the way, while I was further researching, I found a third poll of 1,287 delegates run by Silver Bullet from April 13-17. Virtually the same results:
-- Mike Lee: 35.4 percent
-- Tim Bridgewater: 14.9 percent
-- Bob Bennett: 14.6 percent
-- Cherilyn Eagar: 10.1 percent
-- Merrill Cook: 1.2 percent
-- Undecided: 23.4 percent
Silver Bullet Daily Call Totals Final Totals
But Bob Bennett remains optimistic. Bennett said his own tracking polls show there is a "great deal of volatility" among the delegates as support jumps from one candidate to the other, and The Tribune survey, paired with others that have been conducted, show the field remains fluid. "The only real conclusion we can come to is that the race is still very volatile and people are changing their minds," said Bennett, his voice raspy from speaking on the stump. "I was on the phone this morning with folks who took the call by announcing they were for Lee and by the end of the call they had changed their minds and said they were for me."
Volatility? Fluid? Two separate polls taken by two different pollsters during the same time period show the same results; namely, that Bob Bennett is running significantly behind Mike Lee. Even if Bennett picked up all the "Not Sures", which isn't going to happen, that would put him only at 31 percent, still behind Lee. And Dan Jones showed that 41.1 percent of polled delegates would NOT vote for Bennett under ANY circumstances, MUCH higher than almost everyone else. So Bennett appears to be whistling in the dark.
As for Cherilyn Eagar, what I feared might happen did indeed happen; she got swamped by Mike Lee, and now Tim Bridgewater's pulled past her. Perhaps she started her campaign too early and the media became overly focused on the later entrants. But Eagar should stay in the race and keep swinging through the convention, because even if she's eliminated in the first round, she will command considerable bargaining power. If she was to deliver her share of the delegates to Mike Lee, that could put him over the 60 percent threshold needed to win outright. But if she was to deliver her share of the delegates to Tim Bridgewater, that would assure a primary fight between Lee and Bridgewater. Either way, Bob Bennett becomes an instant lame duck. And, according to the Washington Post, Bennett cannot run as an independent or switch to another party if defeated at the convention; the deadline to run as an independent candidate was March 19th.
Oh, and the Tribune poll does handicap a possible primary matchup between Lee and Bridgewater. They say that Lee likely would prevail in a head-to-head convention contest against Bridgewater -- 44 percent to 30 percent. So as of right now, Lee would more likely win the primary contest.