Bennett easily survived the first round, where the field of candidates was whittled down to three. Mike Lee led that first round with 982 votes, Tim Bridgewater earned 917 votes, and Bob Bennett 885. As pre-convention polls clearly predicted, Cherilyn Eagar lagged fourth with 541 votes and thus was sent packing along with the other candidates. Post-vote interviews indicate Eagar supporters were migrating almost equally to either Lee or Brigewater.
Pre-convention polls also presaged a possible second-round knockout of Bennett. An April 20th Dan Jones poll indicated that when delegates were asked who their second choice would be if their favorite was knocked out early, only 5.9 percent chose Bob Bennett. In contrast, 29.4 percent chose Tim Bridgewater, and 20.5 percent chose Mike Lee. In addition, a whopping 41.1 percent said they would not vote for Bennett under any circumstances, compared to 8.7 percent for Mike Lee and 6.8 percent for Tim Bridgewater. The biggest sticking point for Bennett was his vote for TARP; here's a list of the other Republican senators who voted for TARP, and their fates. Bennett later issued the following statement:
"I want to thank my wife Joyce, my family, staff, and volunteers for their dedication and support. This campaign has been an uphill battle. I have always tried to serve Utah and our country the best way I can. It has been the honor of my life to represent the great people of Utah for these past 18 years."
The third round of voting is just beginning. Bob Bennett does not plan to endorse another candidate at this time, so his delegates will feel free to vote their consciences. Although Bridgewater clearly has momentum at this time, it's not quite enough to push him over the 60 percent necessary to avoid a June 22nd primary fight. So it's looking like there will be a primary fight between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater.
Update: The third round of voting is complete, and there will be a primary. Tim Bridgewater got 57 percent, and Mike Lee 43 percent.
In the other Republican race of interest, Morgan Philpot got 60.1 percent over Neil Walter, so Philpot wins the Republican nomination outright.
Continued live-blogging at the following sources:
-- SL Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke's Twitter HERE
-- SL Tribune reporter Thomas Burr's Twitter HERE. This is the best Twitter feed so far.
-- Conor Boyack's Twitter HERE.