The anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party won its second early victory in the 2010 election cycle on Saturday, when incumbent Utah senator, Bob Bennett lost the G.O.P. nomination to two Republican outsiders.
In Utah, statewide Republican nominations are awarded by a vote of the State Central Committee that is comprised of the state’s 58 county chairs and vice chairs as well as 106 at-large county committee persons who are elected at organizing conventions that are held during the course of every odd year.
These people are the activist leaders, residents of the state who have come from the grassroots of the G.O.P. and gained a seat at the table that allows them to determine who gets their Republican nomination.
This year those people stood up to the establishment and in an example of the anti-incumbency tidal wave that is on the horizon, ousted incumbent senator Bob Bennett.
The incident is a significant one and it is the second example of the political revolution that is taking place in America.
Prior to Bennett’s loss of the Republican nomination, Florida Governor Charlie Crist was on his way to winning the Republican nomination for that state’s upcoming U.S. Senate election. Crist was originally the choice of establishment Republicans everywhere from Washington, D.C., where the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was offering his support to Crist, to the leadership of the G.O.P. throughout Florida. But when Marco Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House jumped into the race, he went under the radar of the establishment and appealed to the grassroots of the Party.
Pretty soon the growing groundswell of support that Rubio inspired, forced the establishment to take a step back from the race and eventually it forced Governor Crist out of the contest after he withdrew from the primary and declared his sudden appreciation for independence.
This most recent defeat of an establishment, incumbent Republican for the Party’s nomination, is a sign that the people who support the Republican principles that are suppose to be the backbone of the Party, are finally taking control back from the establishment politicians.
A three term incumbent, Bennett lost his bid for the nomination to a fourth term in the senate on the second round of balloting. Having come in third, the top two candidates, two Tea Party backed candidates, Tim Bridgewater, and Mike Lee, advanced to a third round of balloting. But neither received a sufficient number of votes to the secure the nomination at the convention. So now Bridgewater and Lee will face off in a statewide primary election that will be held on June 22nd.
Having far less name ID than Bob Bennett, a primary race between Bridgewater and Lee will only help to strengthen the ticket in November. It will increase their exposure and support , something which the Democrat nominee for the seat, Sam Granato, also has very little of. That fact helps to shape the odds in favor of Bennett’s seat remaining in the Republican column.
There is no state in America that is more strongly Republican than Utah.
One good example of this is a look at the history of its presidential election results.
A strong Republican candidate can win the state with a plurality in the mid to upper 70 percent range. During a bad year for Republicans, with a weak nominee at the top of the ticket, Utah will still produce a plurality for Republicans. One that is anywhere from the mid to lower 60 percent range. In 2008, John McCain won Utah by 63%. That’s a landslide but in Utah that is also a poor showing for a Republican.
So suffice it to say, although on the statewide level, electing a Democrat is not impossible, most of the time, it is unlikely and most of the time winning the Republican nomination for any statewide office in Utah is usually tantamount to winning the general election.
This year though, that nomination is going to an anti-establishment, conservative Republican. And so the revolution keeps marching on.