Just a quick observations about the Utah Republican Party Sate Convention yesterday at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah where Senator Bennett did not make it out of convention to become a nominee for his 4th term in the U.S. Senate.
1-Chairman Dave Hansen and Executive Director Ivan Dubois did a great job in pulling off a nearly flawless convention. They and the other officers, staff and a myriad of volunteers did yeoman's service and should be congratulated.
2-Senator Bennett is a class act and an honorable public servant. He finished with dignity and gave two of the best speeches I've heard him give. He has done a lot for the state and deserves to be remembered for all the good he has done. The next time you see him, thank him for his service regardless of whether you wanted him to return for a 4th term or not. There is an old saying that you don't shoot a race horse that wins 7 out of ten races. In Bennett's case he had a much better record than even that.
He was a victim of a time when there is deep frustration and distrust of the status quo in Washington. I dare say that if a national referendum were held today, and the question presented was "should we retire the entire congress"... the majority of this country would probably vote yes.
(A side note: Bob was also the victim of out of state organizations who appear to relish in proving their "power" by even taking out Republicans... (Bob Bennett is no Arlen Specter for heavens sake!) I wish they would focus the considerable money and media more on the races where they can support a Republican against a Democrat... so that our numbers in the U.S. Senate and House would improve. I'll still take a "moderate" Republican over a "liberal" Democrat any day of the week!)
Bob was also a victim of Utah's unique "qualifying" caucus-convention system for becoming a candidate of the Republican Party. The caucus-convention system .
3-However, the Caucus-Convention system does exactly what it is intended to do. Make politics accessible to the grassroots of society, without regard to station or wealth. Those who care enough to take less than two hours out of an evening to meet with their neighbors to elect one of themselves whom they trust to represent them at the State Convention is a microcosm of our democratic republic.
Those delegates become the best informed people on the planet regarding the people who have decided to "enter the arena" for statewide or federal office.
I still like this system because it affords anyone to "enter the arena" at an equal footing. You don't have to be politically connected, you don't have to be wealthy, and you don't even need to know what you are talking about... but then I'm not sure that's a real qualification for politics anyway... okay I'm kidding... but guess what, if you aren't delivering ideas and something to vote for you will get weeded out quickly by a group of your peers...
The one thing that might change on the caucus-convention system is going back to a 70% (maybe even 75%) threshold for becoming the nominee without going through a primary. When I was chairman in the early 90's we changed the constitution to lower the threshold to 60% from 70%. The reasoning at that time was because the primary was held in September and the party candidates spent the entire summer beating up on each other to their sometimes mutual self-destruction and at considerable expense, all the while the democrats would field one candidate and not have to worry about a primary and could save their reputations and money for the general.
However, with the primary now being held in June, raising the threshold would not be that detrimental. Candidly (of course if you are the candidate yourself you may not agree), a primary can be a healthy thing. And gives all the Republican voters a chance to choose their ultimate nominee. It also can build good name identification and polish the message that needs to be articulated in the General Election.
4. One vote (or a few, or 167) really does make a difference. This was no more apparent than in a couple of multi-county legislative races. In one race, an incumbent was ousted and the challenger avoided a primary by just one vote. In another, an incumbent took second place and made the primary against his newcomer challenger by just one vote.
But the biggie? The big one was in the Senate race. in the first round 3,414 delegates voted.
In the second round with just Bennett, Tim Bridgewater, and Mike Lee left to garner votes, 3,404 delegates voted. Just a fall-off of 10 votes. Those ten voters left but wouldn't have made any difference had they stated but in the third round... wow....
Nearly 4 of 5 votes cast for Bennett went to Bridgewater. (That says something about the animosity felt between the Bennett and Lee Campaigns I suppose.) But 167 delegates failed to vote in the third round and Bridgewater only needed 89 more votes to 60% Lee and thus avoid a primary. If the ratio of vote switchers even stayed the same, i.e. 4 of 5 votes... Bridgewater would have won if those 167 delegates had stayed to vote. Lee can probably thank those 167 for leaving the convention to keep him alive to battle through a primary with Bridgewater.
4. The Washington Post has a hard time getting a story straight sometimes... (maybe often depending on who you speak with !). They claimed in a story today that a video taped message by Senator Jim DeMint (who is a terrific conservative in the U.S. Senate incidently) on behalf of Candidate Lee received a greater ovation than even that of visiting Mitt Romney who was at the convention to show his support for Bennett. (Side Note: Romney of course knew -who didn't?-that Bennett was in considerable trouble and could have avoided the scene altogether. You have to give him props for showing some loyalty to Bennett who was one of the first to encourage Romney on his Presidential bid.)
Romney of course has been extraordinarily popular in the state, receiving a greater than 90% vote in the presidential primary last. When he introduced Bennett, the audience did not give him more than a polite ovation (but remember, 2/3 of the attendees already had decided to vote for someone other than Bennett... what could they do?).
The fact that DeMint's Video Tape message received a loud ovation was nearly entirely due to the fact that the time keeper held up the"Stop" sign indicating that Candidate Lee's time had expired and the dutiful delegates, as they did with everyone who went over their time, burst into boisterous applause as a sign to please stop NOW!
So, please Washington Post, do not equate DeMint's applause volume as much more than a signal to stop... Mitt still has a hugely popular base in Utah, make no mistake about that.
5-A Message to Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee. I know you both. I like you both. You are both good men, with wonderful families. Either of you would make me proud to call you my U.S. Senator.
So don't do stupid stuff... The primary should be between two gentlemen of character and honor. Get beyond the convention. Clean Slate. Do not do anything that will bring dishonor to your family name or to yourself. This is an election. It is important. But it is not worth sullying your reputation or disappointing your family by engaging in aberrant election behavior.
I would not take a lot of advice from outsiders who have other agendas at work. I would turn to your values and beliefs and make sure you measure every piece of advice against those.
Make us proud to be an American, a Utahn, and a Republican.
Best of Luck to You Both.