There’s a lot of political ferment and discontent out there, a sense that the political universe may be reordering itself in unpredictable ways. And over the weekend, it claimed a prominent victim.
“SALT LAKE CITY — It’s on. The first incumbent of the 2010 election year crashed and burned Saturday, and there’s ample cause for alarm for officeholders everywhere.
There was no personal scandal, no whiff of corruption, no silver bullet here.
Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was one of the most powerful and likable members of the Senate, he diligently protected Utah’s interests from his post in GOP leadership and he funneled millions of dollars back to his state as an appropriator.
But Utah Republicans didn’t care. In fact, that’s exactly why they tossed him out Saturday in a humbling second ballot vote at the state party convention.”
By finishing third in balloting in the Utah GOP convention, Bennett, a three-term senator, was denied even a spot on the ballot in the party’s primary. That’s gotta hurt. It also has to put a helluva scare into Bennett’s colleagues in Washington.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak has apparently drawn even in the latest polls with incumbent U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, which is scheduled for a week from tomorrow. Specter, you no doubt recall, fled the Republican Party once it became clear that GOP primary voters would reject him because he wasn’t conservative enough. It now appears quite possible that Democrats will reject him as well, but because he isn’t liberal enough.
And then there’s Florida ’s U.S. Senate race, where Gov. Charlie Crist has abandoned the Republican label to run as an independent. Like Specter and Bennett, Crist was deemed insufficiently conservative by GOP party activists, who prefer the more ideological Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House. In the latest polls, Crist holds a decent if surprising lead over his Democratic and Republican competitors, although it will be interesting to see if he can hold that position without benefit of party help and money. (Not surprisingly, Crist does particularly well among independents).
Similar dynamics are in play in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, where conservative Rand Paul holds a significant lead over Secretary of State Trey Greyson.
That’s fascinating for a variety of reasons, not least that Greyson has been endorsed by Kentucky’s other U.S. senator, Mitch McConnell. If McConnell’s preferred home-state candidate is rejected by his home-state Republican voters, it would constitute a pretty big rebuke for the Senate minority leader. In fact, it could have repercussions all the way up to Washington, where ultra-conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina may be eyeing McConnell’s leadership post.
Two other senators facing primary challenges, Democrat Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Republican John McCain of Arizona, have double-digit leads in recent polls and are considered likely to survive.