Saturday, May 08, 2010

Most Republican Senators Supported Bush's Wall Street Bailout-- But It Looks Like Robert Bennett (R-UT) Will Pay The Price


Bishop Mitt and one of his wives have endorsed Bennett

DWT, your always ready source of news for all things Mormon, sensed early on that longtime Senator from the Mormon Empire, Robert Bennett, might not be quite psychotic enough in today's climate to be re-elected in the Beehive State (where Palin is, after all, as good as queen). Don't get me wrong; Bennett is one of the most extreme right-wing lunatics in the Senate. His 2009-2010 ProgressivePunch score is a flat zero; yes, he has defined the Party of No, from the day President Obama was sworn into office. There are only 15 other senators who have the bragging rights to a score of zero, the absolute bottom of the lunatic fringe barrel (DeMint, Bunning, Coburn, McCain, Sessions, Crapo... crap like that). But that still isn't good enough for Mormonmania. After all, his lifetime score is 2.86 (out of 100), so somewhat closer to Barbara Boxer's (93.84), Al Franken's (100) and Sherrod Brown's (96.73) scores than are truer neo-nazis like Richard Burr (2.31), Jim Inhofe (2.18), DeMint (2.15), John Cornyn (1.80), Miss McConnell (1.67) and Johnny Isakson (1.32).

At least a part of what the real problem boils down to is that Bennett went along with Bush's Wall Street bailout back in October, 2008. (This is before Obama was elected so the GOP hadn't morphed into the Party of No yet.) In the Senate ten Democrats and fifteen Republicans voted against the bailout. Coming from a progressive/populist perspective, you had Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, Jon Tester, Maria Cantwell, Debbie Stabenow and Ron Wyden in opposition. Already getting into Party of No mode were extremists like Jeff Sessions, Sam Brownback, DeMint, Inhofe and David Diapers Vitter. These are the Senate Republicans who voted for the bailout:
Lamar Alexander (TN)
Robert Bennett (UT), vulnerable, to put it mildly, to primary defeat
Kit Bond (MO), retiring
Richard Burr (NC), vulnerable to defeat by Elaine Marshall in November
Saxby Chambliss (GA)
Tom Coburn (OK), lucky enough to represent a state too dumb to know its ass from its elbow
Norm Coleman (MN), defeated one month after the vote
Susan Collins (ME)
Bob Corker (TN)
John Cornyn (TX)
Larry Craig (ID), slipped up in a public toilet incident and retired a month after the vote
Pete Domenici (NM), overcome by senility and corruption; retired
John Ensign (NV)
Lindsey Graham (SC)
Chuck Grassely (IA), vulnerable to defeat in November
Judd Gregg (NH), announced retirement rather than face certain defeat
Chuck Hagel (NE), retired
Orrin Hatch (UT), nervously watching what happens to Bennett
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), lost gubernatorial race to a goober
Johnny Isakson (GA), see Coburn, Tom
Jon Kyl (AZ)
Richard Lugar (IN)
Mel Martinez (FL), see Gregg, Judd
John McCain (AZ), vulnerable to defeat in August 24 primary or in November
Miss McConnell (KY), so unpopular in Kentucky that when he endorsed Trey Grayson, Greyson's campaign came to a crashing halt
Lisa Murkowski (AK), saved by antipathy from the Palin Clan
Gordon Smith (OR), defeated one month after the vote
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Arlen Specter (PA), driven out of the GOP, vulnerable to defeat in the primary this month or in the general in November
Ted Stevens (AK), defeated one month after the vote
John Sununu (NH), defeated one month after the vote
John Thune (SD), see Coburn, Tom
George Voinovich (OH), retiring
John Warner (VA), retired

Yesterday a couple of Villagers took some time out to look at Bennett's plight and how it's impacting Republican Party politics. Believe me, Orrin Hatch isn't the only nervous one out there. The chances that Bennett will lose so badly in today's Mormon conclave that he won't even qualify for the primary are so strong that other TARP supporters around the country are running around like Sue Lowden's chickens without their heads. They point out that "for those who must face the voters this year, the notion that a straight-shooting party stalwart [i.e.- knee-jerk right-wing hack who always does what he's told] like Bennett would become the first establishment scalp claimed by insurgent conservatives [not counting Hagel, Bond, Sununu, Gregg, Voinovich, Martinez-- and Utah Congressman Chris Cannon] has sparked something else-- fear of reflexive voting against any and all incumbents."
The 76-year-old senator has missed votes this week to stay in Utah campaigning-- pleading his case in one-on-one conversations with delegates-- but some senior Republicans are worried it may be too late for Bennett. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who could face a similar storm in 2012 when his sixth term expires, said he was “very much” concerned about his close friend’s prospects on Saturday. 

“He’s fighting the good fight but there are some misconceptions he’s facing that are very hard to overcome,” Hatch said, adding of the GOP’s conservative grass roots, “They’re mad at everybody.”  [I wonder if he meant "angry;" maybe not.]

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said, “I am deeply concerned that he faces opposition that I don’t believe is warranted.”

Bennett’s prospects at the convention have so worried the GOP’s establishment that some influential Republicans in Washington have sent word through Bennett’s predecessor, former Utah GOP Sen. Jake Garn, that Bennett ought to consider running regardless of what happens Saturday. 

But under party rules in Utah, Bennett could not petition his way onto the primary ballot-- and the filing deadline to run as an independent was in March. Should he fail to finish in the top two at the convention, Bennett’s only recourse to run in November would be to do so as a write-in, and Hatch said flatly that that wouldn’t happen.

While Bennett has paid a price for his support of TARP, what worries Republicans like Hatch is that Bennett seems vulnerable largely because he’s an incumbent and part of the political establishment. 

Even before the delegates cast their votes, grumbling has begun among professional Republicans about Bennett’s plight.

“He woke up late to assessing his problem,” said a friend of the senator who also carped about Bennett’s not-very-political Washington staff and seemingly subpar campaign organization. “He’s a gentleman senator, which is good in Washington, but that doesn’t help him in one of these fights.”

Indeed, Bennett is in many ways the personification of a decorous senator from the old school-- a fitting image for somebody who grew up the son of a Utah senator who served four terms during the more collegial mid-20th century... [N]ot all senators are sympathetic to Bennett’s plight.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a spending hawk who has clashed with appropriators, said Bennett wasn’t just fighting for his political life because he’s an incumbent. Rather, it was because of his unapologetic earmarking ways.

“If you look at his record on spending, it’s not good,” Coburn said.

Some in the Capitol are already chalking up Bennett’s struggles, and anticipated loss, to the fevered emotions of the moment... Asked Thursday about Bennett’s influence, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) quipped:

“If I say anything nice about him, it’ll probably hurt him in his reelection prospects ... given the mood about Washington, so I’ll pass."

That didn't shut up Miss McConnell-- who like Kyl and Bennett voted for the Wall Street bailout-- and he went on at great length about how important Bennett is to him. Many say he's McConnell's closest advisor, not a safe electoral position. “He’s been extremely important-- not only to me but to the conference, not only this year but in other years,” said Miss McConnell. “He’s an incredibly effective member of the Senate who, when he speaks, everybody listens.” Unfortunately for Bennett, so have the teabaggers who, with the Mormons, control the Utah Republican Party. Oh... and brilliant GOP strategist Glenn Beck, of course, interviewing-- I guess you could call it that-- one of the ambitious wing-nuts running against Bennett:

Glenn Beck's candidate, Mike Lee, the likely winner, is a a Ron Paul kook, and has been endorsed by Tea Party string-puller Dick Armey, Hate Talk Radio host Mark Levin, fringe right-wing blogger Erick Erickson and ex-Rep Jim Hansen (best known for forcing cancer-causing U.S. cigarettes onto the people of Thailand). If Mitt Romney can't save Bennett from populist anger over his corporate bailout vote, who's going to save much less-liked figures like Richard Burr, Chuck Grassley, Arlen Specter and John McCain?

UPDATE: The Mormons Are Voting

They just had their first round and poor old Bennett hung on... barely. He came in third. The Glenn Beck/Ron Paul candidate, Mike Lee, scored 28.75%. Another teabagger, Tim Bridgewater, got 26.84% and Bennett came away with 25.91%, a close third. Problem is all the other candidates are teababgers and anti-TARP kooks and their votes weren't destined for Bennett in the next round. The second round was so-so for Mike Lee, who wound up with 35.99% and bad for Bennett (26.59%); Bridgewater vaulted to first place with 37.42%-- a teabagger, but without the Ron Paul/Glenn Beck baggage. Romney's endorsement doesn't seem to have been as important to Bennett as Glenn Beck's was to Mike Lee. A candidate needs at least 60% to become the party’s candidate, and at least 40% in the final round to qualify for the party primary on June 22. Bennett is threatening to run as a write-in candidate after he's eliminated (a certainty). Too bad Utah has a moribund Democratic Party incapable of taking advantage of the bitter GOP civil war. In fact Blue Dog Jim Matheson, the only putative Democrat in the Utah congressional delegation, is also being challenged today and may not be able to get the official Democratic nod (despite the fact that he dragged Steny Hoyer out to Utah to work the room for him)!

UPDATE TWO: Bennett Doesn't Make It To Round Three

Did I forget to mention that above? Round three will be between teabagger kooks Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. Bennett is sad. This was a huge, embarrassing defeat for Romney, McConnell and the Republican Establishment. The next nightmare for these characters will be in a week and a half when teabaggers nominate Ron Paul's lunatic son Rand for the Republican Party slot over McConnell's protege, Trey Grayson. And Green Day's got just the song for Bennett and all the other reactionaries on both sides of the aisle who fall this year (although Dave Weigel had a good song idea too)!

The final ballot failed-- barely-- to give anyone the Party endorsement. Tim Bridgewater came in first with 57.28% and the Glenn Beck nut, Mike Lee, came in second with just 44.72. Extremist bloggers on the fringes of the right have been railing against Bridgewater in their pro-Lee mania. This should be a real bloothbath. (Rep. Jim Matheson was also forced into a primary with a real Democrat, Claudia Wright, who campaigned as an anti-Blue Dog.
Wright, a retired high school teacher and college gender studies instructor, fought a spirited campaign at convention to assure delegates she is electable in a district that Matheson's backers said is too conservative for her. Liberal Salt Lake City Democrats had chosen her to challenge Matheson after his vote against the health care reform bill, pushed by President Barack Obama.

Wright went room-to-room in the morning caucuses at the Salt Palace Convention Center telling delegates that Republicans have become so radical in their nominating process that some of their party members will consider Democrats, including her.

"The Republican Party has moved so far right that those Republicans who are moderate are seriously considering becoming Democrats," Wright said in the morning to the Stonewall Democrats, a gay-rights caucus.

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