Hatch endorses Bennett's re-election

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who's facing challenges from both inside and outside his party in his 2010 re-election bid, has drawn an endorsement from fellow Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Speaking Friday to the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce, Hatch said Utah cannot afford to lose his Republican colleague's experience and influence in Washington.

Hatch said he likes all the candidates vying for Bennett's seat, including Democrat Sam Granato, but Bennett is the best one for the job.

"We have to wake up around here," said Hatch, the state's senior senator. "(Bennett) is considered a real conservative back in Washington."

Hatch told the Provo Daily Herald later Friday that Bennett could become chairman of the Senate Banking Committee if Republicans regain control of the Senate.

"Bob is in a position of great power for our state," Hatch said, adding he considers the committee among the Senate's most powerful.

In a recent Utah County GOP straw poll, Bennett finished behind Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Cherilyn Eagar.

Shurtleff spokesman Jason Powers criticized Bennett's efforts to push through a banking bailout bill last year and called him a Washington "insider."

Hatch acknowledged the bailout was controversial, but said it was needed to stave off a full-blown financial depression and panic on Wall Street.

Even if people don't always agree with Bennett, "as a conservative you can't disagree with him very much," Hatch said. "He votes in the best interest of the state."

Bennett, who took office in 1993, is seeking a fourth term.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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