Mike Lee to oust Sen. Bennett?

Apparently there is a conservative uprising against Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah.  Challenger Mike Lee appears to have a chance to oust a sitting senator.  I have to admit, I’m stunned.  Sen. Bennett seemed like a pretty conservative senator.  But apparently not conservative enough, if you read this article.

I’d like to hear from Utah readers.  What do you think about this matchup?  Do you have a problem with Bennett?  What is Mike Lee’s reputation?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

40 thoughts on “Mike Lee to oust Sen. Bennett?

  1. Bennett being “conservative” requires defining just what you mean by conservative. If you look at him through the lens of the Constitution (which he swore with an oath to support and defend), then he’s seen in a whole different (and very negative) light:


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  3. In America, we have a huge, awful problem – we’re broke, and deep in debt. Senator Bennett has been, and continues to be, part of that awful problem. His voting record places him near the top of the list of most liberal Republican senators. The only way we can solve this massive spending problem is to stop spending, and Senator Bennett simply cannot restrain himself, (as evidenced by the millions he’s spending on his own campaign), but neither can he influence others to stop spending in congress. Bob Bennett thinks it;s ok to distribute the weath, ok to continue with earmarks and pork. Well, that is not ok, not by a long shot, and he must be given a one-way ticket home.Senator Bennett simply must be replaced by someone who will commit to put a stop to the reckless spending, and that someone is Mike Lee. Period.

  4. Call me sensitive but it irks me to read that Senator Bennett is being challenged because he isn’t conservative enough. That makes it sound like he is pro-choice or wants to defund the military. Then people look at his voting record and can’t understand why we want to replace him. Leaving aside labels the problem is that Bob Bennett thinks government should be addresssing all the problems in the nation rather than the problems designated as government responsibilities by the Constitution. He thinks government has the right/responsibility to tell us how to solve our problems and/or to reach in and solve them for us. That perspective holds the door wide open for groups that want to manipulate society through government to push for more government. It also encourages the propensity to seek federal financing for local projects which pervades both houses of Congress and balloons our federal budget to the detriment of the nation.

    Bob Bennett does not understand this as he campaigns on his experience and established relationships so that he can “get things done.” I don’t want him to get things done. I want him to take his hands out of the cookie jar, walk out of the kitchen and focus his energy on guarding the homestead against threats such as invasion or abuse rather than perpetrating his own abuse of our rights and Constitution.

  5. I think debating who is “conservative” can be as effective as debating who is a true “christian.” As this NRO piece today points out, Bennett’s Sen. Bennett’s ACU rating is 84% (FWIW).

    Bennett hasn’t deviated a whole lot from the GOP establishment (which in itself is a problem) and if Bennett was from New England, he’d be good for what we could expect from that region. Utah can do much better and we need a change.

    My personal problems with Bennett are that he is the top GOP recipient of donations from Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, is an unrepentant Earmarker and after 18 years in the Senate enough is enough. He’s had his time to do what he thinks is important and now is not the time to wake up and get serious because “his” job is on the line. Interestingly, Hatch appears to be getting nervous too.

    As a state delegate I’m actually leaning towards Tim Bridgewater. I like his business and finance background. We have enough lawyers in D.C. but Mike Lee would be fine too, if nominated.

  6. Too many lawyers (especially in DC) look to SCOTUS to decide how to run government. Those businessmen in DC, like Bennett, think they can run government like a business. Being able to make Payroll is good, but the question we need to be asking is “who will look to the Constitution to make their decisions.” Bridgewater talks about the Constitution but he does not come across has having it written in his heart like Mike does. Bridgewater is a nice guy and I think he would start out better than Bennett but I don’t have confidence that he would continue longterm to follow the Constitution faithfully.

  7. Nice to hear these perspectives. Thanks guys.

    Let me chime in on the “we don’t want RINOS” situation. And a note: when I discuss liberal and moderate and conservative below, I am referring solely to fiscal issues regarding taxes and spending.

    Your typical moderate to liberal will read these comments on Bennett and say, “wow, Republicans have really gone off the rails if they think Bennett is not conservative enough.”

    And there is something to that, if we were discussing politics in California, Maine or Massachusetts. But this is politics in Utah, which is a different animal.

    My point is that I would rather have a Sen. Snowe or Collins in Maine (definitely liberal-to-moderate establishment Republicans) than the Democratic alternative. I would rather have a Scott Brown in Mass. than the Democratic alternative. I would rather have a moderate Republican like say Fiorina in California than the Democratic alternative.

    So, there are times when I am Ok with RINOS.

    Now having said that, it is worth pointing out that the media establishment and liberals love moderate Republicans until given a chance to vote for one. Everybody in the establishment LOVED McCain until they had a chance to vote for McCain in November 2008, and then all of the sudden he was a right-wing nut.

    Meanwhile, a moderate Republican is certain to disappoint his conservative supporters. Sen. Bennett has apparently done this somewhat. But I think about Charlie Crist, from Florida, where I lived until recently. Crist was better than the Democratic alternative but only marginally so. And of course he has turned out to be a disaster of a governor and now he is seriously considering running as an independent and abandoning the Republican party altogether.

    The best example of all, I believe is our former President, the “compassionate conservative.” A real conservative would never have busted the budget and proposed new entitlements like W. did. In the process, he ruined the Republican brand among independents. The damage from Bush’s compassionate conservatism will be with us for decades to come.

    To summarize: moderate Republicans always disappoint. Establishment Republicans very often go wishy-washy on fiscal issues. Conservatives should support the most fiscally conservative candidate possible.

  8. The author wrote: “Sen. Bennett seemed like a pretty conservative senator. But apparently not conservative enough”

    If, by “conservative” in the first part of the sentence, you meant “neo-conservative”, then you would have been correct. But there’s exactly the rub. We don’t want neo-cons. We want people who think that the Constitution actually means something.

  9. Frank, I think the last decade has caused a complete re-definition of what it means to be a conservative. Compassionate conservatives like Pres. Bush are not what the people want. Maverick conservatives like McCain are not any better.

    The conservatives of this generation are going to have to talk about massive cuts in government spending and a more modest foreign policy, in my opinion. They are going to have to talk a lot more about following what the Constitution says rather than their own interpretation of it. Sen. Bennett, it appears, may be a casualty of the old interpretation of what a conservative is.

  10. Geoff:

    Excellent analysis. I agree. That is in essence what I told people at my Republican precinct caucus meetings, for which I was resoundingly elected precinct chair. In my presentation, I told them I wanted to be a state delegate because I wanted to vote against Bob Bennett (essentially for the reasons you have described), and I got a large amount of applause.

  11. For decades, Congress has had a very low approval rating. While this may have been the case, each individual congressperson had a higher approval rating. It isn’t until now that people are starting to realize that it isn’t just congress as a whole that is the problem. Rather, it is their congressperson who is part of the problem.

    Hatch as done okay. But as Connor and Frank point out, he ignores the constitution when it is convenient for him. He has also ignored his constituency. The people of Utah are waking up and realizing that it isn’t just congress that is the problem. It is our congressman that is the problem. So, it is time for Bennett to go.

  12. Just as another note. I don’t know that Mike Lee is the best man for the job. I would claim that I lean towards another of his competitors. But I would definitely agree that Lee is a better choice than Bennett.

  13. For me, it’s not a matter of how “conservative” someone is. I think Bennett has done a lot of things right, but the fiscal irresponsibility of the congress, including Bob Bennett, is the reason he has to go. It is inherently corrupting for the federal government to have so much power to take and spend money. It needs to be stopped.

  14. As an aside, I think it contributes little to the debate when a person makes blanket statements like, “so-and-so is not following the Constitution,” or, “the Constitution doesn’t mean anything to so-and-so.”

    This rhetoric comes from both liberal and conservative commentators.

    What does it even mean? Frankly, making those statements is lazy. It assumes some fixed interpretation of the document that has intentionally vague language. Just say that you wish Bennett, or whoever, followed your interpretation of the Constitution.

  15. Hatch is much worse than Bennett, I just hope you Utah Republicans are just as fired up when he is up for election.

  16. As far as the U.S. Constitution is concerned, I would like to see someone who knows it inside and out. That requires study of the Constitution, not by the words themselves but reading the Founders documents (i.e. The Federalist Papers). I heard it said that we should use textual originalism when interpreting the Constitution. We shouldn’t interpret it our own way but the way the founders intended it to be understood. Because of this, Mike Lee has my vote. I’m looking forward to voting for him at the State Convention. By the way, how many people here are state or county delegates? Congrats! It is great to see the increased involvement in the political process.

  17. “I heard it said that we should use textual originalism when interpreting the Constitution.”

    This is complicated by the fact that the founders never thought this. Yet, I am all for viewing the Constitution through the lens of the Federalist. This is somewhat complicated for the Tea Party folks since they are driven by the ideology of anti-federalism.

    Needless to say, I am not a delegate to the GOP state convention. (Not going to the Dem one becuase I have to work caucus night).

  18. Unfortunately, Senator Bennett is a man who seems to have come to believe that he knows what individuals in Utah should do with their lives better than they do. He has voted too many times FOR government power over the individual. He doesn’t seem to understand that the Constitution puts limits on what the Federal government can do. We need a Senator who does understand this, and I think Mike Lee is the right guy for the job.

  19. I was elected a state delegate in Davis County (from what I can tell) largely based on my professed intention to vote for someone other than Bennett. I think Bennett is a decent guy, he is just a classic establishment Republican, a big spender in a year when sentiment is for anything but. He was also elected in 1992 on a platform of serving only two terms.

    In any case, based on what I have seen, I give Bennett about one chance in three of surviving the state convention. He needs 40% of the vote to do so, and he is generally not getting that much in straw polls. For him to make it to a primary, he will need a number of second place votes from supporters of other candidates.

    Given that the others are all relatively conservative by comparison, I am not confident that he is the second choice of enough delegates to come in second with more than 40% of the vote. Even then, I don’t think he can win a primary against either Bridgewater or Lee.

  20. Here is an example of what I mean. I think the most likely scenario is that Mike Lee wins the nomination outright with more than 60% of the vote.

  21. Mike, Mitt, and W. stand in relation to Rex, George, and H.W. in more ways than one. Needless to say, I prefer the earlier generation.

  22. Mark,

    I disagree. I think that Bennett’s major challenge is the convention. If he makes if into a Primary, I think he has a shot. The reason being that he already has an established statewide campaign network and strong name recognition. Plus, the demand to ideological purity with not carry over to regular GOP voters in the way that it does with the activists at the convention. Now, I think the odds are against him.

  23. Picking along generational lines is constricting. If I had to go with three of the six you mentioned it would be George, Mike, and Rex (in alphabetical order).

  24. Chris H, I agree that Bennett has a greater challenge in convention than winning a primary. I just don’t think he is likely to be able to win a primary against Lee or Bridgewater this year. One of the strikes against him is that he is seventy six years old and looks ten years older than that.

  25. Regarding comment #23, and Chris H’s comment saying that Bennett is a man of integrity, you will always hear liberals say they prefer a past generation of Republicans who were supposedly more moderate. I’ll never forget liberals extolling the virtues of Barry Goldwater as he got older, and we are endlessly hearing about how H.W. was better than W., etc. Liberals say they want a moderate Republican, not the modern Neanderthal version.

    There are several problems with this view. The first is that many people who say this didn’t vote for the earlier moderate version when given a chance in the past. And the second is that they won’t vote for the supposedly moderate version in the present. I’d be willing to bet a Book of Mormon that Chris H will vote for whoever the Democrat is that is facing Bennett, if Bennett gets to the ballot.

    The best example of this is Nov. 2008. Liberals were given an actual living moderate Republican to support in McCain. This was the maverick who supported campaign finance, immigration reform and opposed the Bush tax cuts. McCain hated the religious right and was despised by the conservative wing of the Republican party. And what did liberals do? Of course they turned McCain into a right-wing monster. I don’t know a single liberal among my acquaintances who voted for McCain, even though just a year earlier they were saying they wanted a “moderate” Republican.

    Conservatives will please no one by supporting moderates. Liberals will never give the candidate the benefit of the doubt — no matter who he is he will be turned into a right-wing nut by the liberal establishment.

    One last example of this. W. was a moderate to liberal when it came to economic policy. He supported a huge federal education plan that was bipartisan, he supported immigration reform, he pushed through a huge new entitlement in the prescription drug plan, he relied on government checks to “stimulate” the economy, just like Obama, and he approved TARP. But can anybody here name one person, even one, who will give Bush credit and say they were more likely to vote for him because he was a compassionate conservative. No. Bush will forever be seen as a right-wing nut by liberals, despite actually being a moderate to liberal on economic policy. I recognize that W’s Iraq policy is the source of all of the animus, but the point is that you NEVER hear liberals say, “well, Bush was wrong about the war, but his domestic policy was pretty good.”

    It does no good trying to please liberals — they will always hate moderate Republicans in the present even if they praise them in the theoretical past.

  26. Geoff, Geoff, Geoff,

    While we all know that I am just like every other liberal, I actually voted for Bennett in 2004. I have met him a number of time. My uncle work for his father in the Senate.

    I would never vote for yu.

  27. Chris, who is Yu? Is he/she running for something?

    But more seriously, I am stunned and shocked. You have ruined my entire thesis. Oh well.

    Will you vote for Bennett in 2010 if he makes the ballot?

    In addition to integrity, what are some of the things you like about Bennett? I would love to hear some other views on him. I honestly don’t know whom I would vote for if I lived in Utah because I don’t know the candidates that well.

  28. Well said, Geoff. The problem with moderate Republicans is why choose an imitation when you can have the real thing? It just muddies the water for the electorate to conclude that most Republicans are just watered down liberals. Many won’t come out and vote, for one thing.

    The GOP, for all its vaunted conservatism has only produced one conservative presidential nominee in forty years: Ronald Reagan. Nixon, Ford, Bush 41, Dole, Bush 43, and McCain were nothing of the kind. Establishment big spending middle of the roaders all.

  29. Mark D, even Reagan did not decrease the size of government, only slowed it down a bit. The Republican Congress convinced Clinton to make some decent cuts, resulting in a nice surplus that W. squandered. My personal preference would be discussions about significant cuts in federal spending, in the order of 20-30 percent per year in the budget. I hope we can get there by 2013 or so.

  30. My last comment was poorly written. Sorry about that.

    Geoff, no response…Really?

    I am all in favor of the GOP being as far right as possible. I just like Bennett.

  31. Geoff, certainly a president can only do so much by himself. Spending reforms ultimately must originate in the House. Of course, if the current level of spending is what the public really wants, it would be far more responsible to pass a massive tax increase to pay for it than to continue as is.

    The political disconnect is the main reason why I favor a balanced budget amendment with an exception only for additional defense spending in a declared war. Every vote to increase spending should be an automatic vote to increase taxes and vice versa.

    As far as the current level of spending is concerned, I think we would be doing very well to cut spending to balanced budget levels without raising taxes. That and entitlement reform of course.

  32. “There are several problems with this view. The first is that many people who say this didn’t vote for the earlier moderate version when given a chance in the past. And the second is that they won’t vote for the supposedly moderate version in the present. I’d be willing to bet a Book of Mormon that Chris H will vote for whoever the Democrat is that is facing Bennett, if Bennett gets to the ballot.”

    I don’t understand, how would a Democrat vote for Bennett over Lee? Unless the law has changed in Utah, I’m not allowed to vote for the more moderate Bennett because I’m not a registered Republican. Or are you suggesting I vote for Bennett over whoever is up against him from the Democrats? Because while I have said I’d vote for a moderate Republican (and have, I voted for Huntsman), it would only happen if the Democratic challenger was extremely left of my views. And that just doesn’t happen in Utah, when you look at the candidates closely, the Democrat is usually just a slightly more moderate version of the Republican. Unless you’re in Salt Lake County, far left liberals aren’t getting elected.

    “My personal preference would be discussions about significant cuts in federal spending, in the order of 20-30 percent per year in the budget. I hope we can get there by 2013 or so.”

    I’m a Democrat, but I’d love to see that as well. You don’t mind if 20 of that 20-30 percent comes from defense cuts do you? 😉

  33. jjohnsen: I’m with you on cutting by 20-30% per year. As a Mike Lee supporter and a self-styled Ron Paul Republican, I wouldn’t mind seeing a hefty chunk of that 20-30% be taken out of the defense budget. We spend far to much in that arena. But I hope you agree that there are other arenas as well where cuts need to come.

  34. jjohnsen, what I meant by that was Bennett vs. the Dem candidate in the general election. I am once again surprised to hear you voted for Huntsman. Shows me how little I actually know about the voting patterns of my internet friends.

    As for defense cuts, I have come around to the Ron Paul/Jason Chaffetz side of the Republican party. I favor huge defense spending cuts. I think we could probably close our bases in Germany and Japan without seriously affecting our national security. I am in favor of a pullout in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those measures alone would save more than 20-30 percent in defense spending.

    I saw a chart showing defense spending as a percentage of the budget. Even with all of our wars, entitlement spending dwarfs defense spending, so the reality is that if you really want to cut the budget you need to deal with that issue. Personally, I would be in favor of shuttering the Education department and HUD. There is a lot of fat to cut.

  35. Frank, I totally agree. There are a a lot of areas that need that fat trimmed, but in my opinion the military has the most fat right now. Like Geoff, I’m trying to figure out why we need such a large presence in countries like Japan and Germany.

    “jjohnsen, what I meant by that was Bennett vs. the Dem candidate in the general election. I am once again surprised to hear you voted for Huntsman. Shows me how little I actually know about the voting patterns of my internet friends.”

    I’m a huge Huntsman guy. He’s the only Republican right now that would make me pause before pulling the lever for President Obama. I’ve always voted pretty moderate, though increasingly leaning Democrat as I get older.

    I didn’t realize you meant the general election. As a Utah Democrat I get to vote for moderate Republicans all the time. Most of the Democratic candidates in my district are DINOs. Rarely do they agree with the statewide, and especially nationwide Democratic platform. I doubt you’d know most of the candidates I vote for locally were Democrat if you just read their views and ignored the (D) next to their name.

  36. Unless the law has changed in Utah, I’m not allowed to vote for the more moderate Bennett because I’m not a registered Republican

    The Republican Party is a private organization. It can let anyone vote in its primary that it wants to. However, there was a change a few years ago (which I voted for in convention) to allow only registered Republican voters (or possibly those that register on the spot) to vote in Republican primaries.

    Now it is true that some states used to have laws requiring that private party primaries be open to all non party members. However, such laws are blatantly unconstitutional (freedom of association), and I believe there was a court decision to that effect.

    There is one thing remaining though. In my opinion, the state has no business paying for or running the primary election of a private organization. Make the parties do it.

    The only way a state can get around this is by requiring an open primary. However even with an open primary (i.e. a two step election) a state cannot reasonably prevent a party from selecting a candidate in its own, privately funded primary prior to that.

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