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May 16: Sen. Bennett and the Tea Party Movement

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Sen. Bob Bennett became the first incumbent to fall victim to a growing anti-Washington sentiment ahead of the midterm elections. The veteran senator, esteemed by colleagues on both sides of the aisle as both competent and conservative, was ousted by Republican delegates who found him no longer conservative enough.

His ouster was engineered with support of the Tea Party movement. In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Bruce Lindsay discusses the current political climate with Sen. Bennett and Utah Tea Party organizer David Kirkham.

Segment 1: Sen. Bennett

The big question on many of Sen. Bennett's supporter's minds is whether he will run as a write-in candidate. The senator has decided to wait until things calm down to make a decision.

"I have made the very firm decision not to make any decisions for a while. Let's let things settle down. Let's let some of the passion drain out of the reactions to the convention before we do anything," Bennett explains. "I'm not accepting any offers, I'm not making any firm decisions and I am not making any endorsements until we let a little bit of time pass."

Bennett is getting a lot of feedback on his next move.

"I'm getting an awful lot of pressure, very friendly pressure, to be sure, from a lot of Utahns who say they are outraged at what happened. One fellow called me today and said, 'I'm going to write you in whether you want me to or not, I cannot under any circumstances vote for either of these other fellows.' And others are saying, 'It's your duty to the state not to walk away from the positions you hold that are of such value to the state,'" describes Bennett. "Then there are others who say, 'No you don't want to do that, just let it go and move in another direction.' I think I owe it to everyone who has an opinion that they want to express on this to listen to their opinion before I make a firm decision, but as I say my one firm decision is that I am not going to decide right away."

A recent Dan Jones and Associates poll showed the opinions of delegates and voters. Bennett recognizes the turnout at the caucuses and convention played a huge role in him not moving on to the primary.

"It's clear that those who showed up at the caucuses made a huge difference. We were organized for a standard kind of turn out and I believe if we had had the standard turn out at the caucus meeting I would have gotten 60 percent at the convention myself and would not have had to have a primary, but our organization got overwhelmed by the turnout," says Bennett. "The normal turnout is between 25,000 and 35,000 and the actual turnout was 75,000. And of course, everyone who is opposed to me is taking credit for that extra 40,000. I am not entirely sure who is deserves the credit. Maybe I do because I angered that many folks. I don't know."

The vote that angered many Bennett opponents was his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He stands by his vote and would vote the same today.

"I believed that the crisis was real, I still believe that the crisis was real and I still believe that if TARP had not passed we would have financial and economic problems far worse than we have now," Bennett explains. "Looking back on it I believe that it was the correct vote and I would cast it the same today if faced with set of facts."

The Tea Party movement played a role in the ousting of Bennett. He says the movement has energized many people, but it is unknown what role the movement will play over the long term.

"The Tea Party movement, I think, got a lot of people involved and, obviously, I can't say anything but good about that. Whether it will last or not in a positive way, either for the party or for the country, is the question that all the pundits are discussing in Washington now," says Bennett.

Segment 2: Utah Tea Party organizer, David Kirkham

Sen. Bennett's ouster at the Republican convention was supported by the Tea Party movement. David Kirkham says he does not know if the movement orchestrated the ouster, but it was one of the goals.

The movement's primary objection to Bennett was his vote for TARP. Sen. Bennett "voted for TARP and that was a vote that basically pushed us off a cliff," explains Kirkham. Kirkham does not believe the vote saved America from a depression. He says, "The American people would have figured out a way to resolve the problem."

Another concern of the Tea Party movement is making sure politicians are listening to the people. Kirkham says even though Sen. Orrin Hatch also voted for TARP, Hatch has listened to their group, unlike Bennett.

Kirkham started the Tea Party because of Bennett.

"It's an issue of responsibility. Those votes were absolutely irresponsible with our finances and our future. We don't care which party you're from, if you are irresponsible we will vote you out. And if you are responsible, regardless of party, we will vote you in," Kirkham says.

The Utah Tea Party and Kirkham are not supporting either of the candidates that will face off in the primary election.

"Our focus was to put forward good candidates who could beat Bennett," explains Kirkham. "We try to stay very neutral."

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