Declaration of Independence
Those of you who follow U.S. Senate races around the country probably already know that Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah was essentially forced out of office after three terms at his state party’s nominating convention this past Saturday. By finishing third in the balloting, Bennett was denied access to a primary, and thus became the latest victim of the tea party movement’s attempts to reshape the conservative political landscape.
I have already written several times that the tea party movement’s best opportunity to do so is by challenging Republican incumbents from the right. We’ve seen it push Florida Governor Charlie Crist out of the Republican primary and into an independent bid, and now it has denied long-serving Senator Bennett the right to defend his seat as the Republican incumbent. Among Bennett’s sins were voting for the bank bailout (TARP), the stimulus bill, and health care mandates.
Now we learn that Bennett, like Crist, hasn’t written off the possibility of an independent bid. In Bennett’s case, this would have to be done as a write-in candidate, which would be a tall order to be sure. Thus, a move by Bennett is probably less likely than the one taken by Crist, but it nonetheless represents the tea party activists’ worst nightmare, and provides an opportunity for some of these vilified incumbents to potentially have the last political laugh. At a minimum, forcing Republican incumbents out of their party with primary challenges from the right raises the possibility that a subsequent independent bid by that incumbent could siphon off votes from the Republican nominee, thereby giving the Democratic candidate an increased opportunity for victory.
There is an interesting irony to the possibility that in forcing long-serving Republican institutional elites out of their party, the tea party is turning those politicians into the true outsiders who are trying to buck an electoral system that has veered off course. While it is a perfectly legitimate strategy for the tea party to try to influence party primaries, the unintended consequences could be quite surprising.
Note: I'll be away tomorrow, and back posting on Friday. -Dean
Posted On: 05-12-2010 22:44:11 by Jim Splaine
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