Write in? Endorsement? Bennett to announce choice

Published May 19, 2010 5:49 pm

Politics » The senator is keeping quiet prior to Thursday's news conference.
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After flirting with the idea for 12 days, Sen. Bob Bennett is expected to announce Thursday whether he will mount a write-in campaign to keep his seat.

Bennett, denied the Republican nomination by delegates at the state GOP convention, has scheduled a news conference at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices just north of the U.S. Capitol to make public a decision he's weighed since a tearful May 8 loss.

The options are many: Bennett could announce he's going to finish out his seven months left in the Senate and ease into a comfy business or government role. He could rock the establishment and use the Republican Senate campaign arm podium to say he's not leaving without a fight.

Bennett could swing his arm around challenger Tim Bridgewater -- who is in Washington this week -- and endorse him over Mike Lee.

Or he could do a combination of the above.

In any case, since Bennett has come to symbolize incumbents swept out in an anti-Washington backlash, the Utah Republican will likely face a packed house of reporters when he makes his announcement.

Speculation is rampant on what Bennett will say, but conventional wisdom seems to center on the fact that Bennett likely wouldn't use the NRSC headquarters if he were going to announce a write-in bid; NRSC boss, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., has said the group will back the eventual nominee of the Utah GOP and not Bennett if he runs as a write-in.

"It would seem to me that his choice of location would indicate he has decided not to mount a write-in candidacy and finish out his term," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report . Congress "may be stuck in Washington this week, but he doesn't have to announce his candidacy anytime soon."

Bridgewater, a former two-time congressional candidate who came within a few hundred votes of locking in the GOP nomination at the convention, was meeting with potential donors in Washington this week and is scheduled to fly out Friday.

Lee, who served as general counsel to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., earned the ire of Bennett during the campaign, according to people close to the senator, and he wasn't inclined to back Lee going into the primary.

"My guess is if [Bennett] is endorsing someone, it would be Bridgewater over Lee," says Utah pollster Dan Jones.

But, again, Bennett could also pass on an endorsement and let the two GOP challengers duke it out.

Jones doesn't believe Bennett will take on a write-in campaign given the difficulties in getting voters to type in a name on the state's electronic voting equipment and beyond that, the immense effort a campaign of that nature would take.

"But what I'm finding today in politics, things that people have discounted as 'won't work' and things that 'wont happen' are happening," Jones said. "I don't think people thought the tea party would become as strong as its become. Maybe with a write in, [Bennett] would be the first to be able to pull that off."


Write in? Endorsement? Bennett to announce choice

Bennett press conference

Three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, who was defeated May 8 at the Utah Republican Convention has kept his options open about what comes next. He even has repeatedly dangled the possibility of running a write-in campaign. Thursday he is expected to clarify what his future holds.



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