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Bennett speaks his mind about Mike Lee

Former Sen. Bob Bennett opened up a bit Friday about Sen. Mike Lee, the tea party champion who replaced the three-term Bennett in the 2010 election — and the comments weren’t overly flattering.

Bennett usually brushes aside questions about Lee. But Friday during a Q-and-A session following his luncheon keynote at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Salt Lake City, the ex-senator said "Mike Lee is Jim DeMint’s creation."

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DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and tea-party leader, provided money, advisers and guidance to Lee’s campaign because, Bennett said, he wanted the next Utah senator to be "someone in his own image."

Asked if Lee will be re-elected in 2016, Bennett indicated that, despite lots of grumbling, the odds are in his favor.

Because DeMint now heads the conservative and powerful Heritage Foundation, Bennett said, "Mike Lee is going to get all the money in the world."

Anyone considering challenging him for the Republican nomination, said Bennett, will have to ask themselves if they’re willing to enter "one of the nastiest, toughest, one of the most brutal campaigns" …"It’s very possible Senator Lee will scare off anybody in the party" from running against him.

Bennett in his remarks also dissed Lee’s rhetorical skills, saying the reason he barely got out of the 2010 GOP convention was because he started out with a big contingent of enthusiastic supporters who became somewhat deflated when they heard him speak.

The longtime incumbent who lost the nomination at that convention said a number of delegates came up to him later and complained about Lee’s speech being "so full of self entitlement and whining."

— Dan Harrie

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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