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It’s Hard Out Here for a Bennet(t)

It's a tough year for senators named Bennet(t) from the Rocky Mountain West. First, Republican stalwart Bob Bennett of Utah was ousted by party activists at their state convention; now Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado lost at his party's nominating convention to former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff.

It's a tough year for senators named Bennet(t) from the Rocky Mountain West. First, Republican stalwart Bob Bennett of Utah was ousted by party activists at their state convention; now Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado lost at his party's nominating convention to former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff. Unlike his eponymous GOP neighbor, though, Bennet will be on the ballot in the August primary that will decide his party's nominee. (Bennet took 40 percent of the delegates to Romanoff's 60 percent. Any candidate who receives more than 30 percent appears on the ballot. The Utah Republicans have a similar set of rules under which Bob Bennett, who finished in third, failed to qualify for the primary ballot.)  If Bennet loses in August, he would be the third senator to lose his party's primary this year. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) lost in a primary last Tuesday.

Remember the first rule of journalism: three makes a trend. Being a member of the House or Senate is usually a pretty secure job: usually more than 90 percent win reelection, and that is in the general election, never mind their own party's primary. In the rare instances that incumbents lose within their own party, it is often part of a political shift as in 1980, when liberal Republican Sen. Jacob Javits of New York was ousted by an obscure conservative named Al D'Amato, in concert with the Reagan revolution. Those moderate establishment Republicans had to move to the right, as Reagan's running mate, George H. W. Bush, did by abandoning his support for abortion rights and his opposition to suppl- side economics.

Something similar is afoot this year. And contrary to the initial reading of Scott Brown's improbable victory in Massachusetts, it is not a simple shift rightward. Republicans are moving to the right internally, and the activist right is attacking its targets with a remarkable intensity. But Democrats are also restive. Results are unpredictable, and how it all shakes out this fall will be im

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