The Club for Growth, in its ongoing quest to eject moderate Republicans from Congress by backing conservative primary challengers, announced today that it will go after Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in 2010.
That will mean funding a Republican primary challenger, and the Club says it's prepared to spend the money in this race. The Club doesn't yet have a single challenger in mind, but it has interviewed three: businesswoman Cherilyn Eagar, businessman Tim Bridgewater, and attorney Mike Lee. "All are viable and superior candidates," Club spokesman Michael Connolly said.
On its face, the move might look surprising: Bennett isn't the most liberal member of the Republican caucus, and he has a lifetime rating of 83.6 from the American Conservatives Union.
But he's not the most conservative, by any means. Bennett partnered with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to push the Healthy Americans Act in the previous Congress, paving the way for other Republicans to join and, more loosely, set a precedent for a Republican proactively seeking bipartisan legislation to expand health coverage. The Club also cites his record on spending, and Bennett has signed onto a bipartisan bill that would create a deficit-reduction commission, something fiscal conservatives don't like.
Bennett might be seen as a lost opportunity for conservatives who can envision Utah, a conservative state, producing one of the Senate's most conservative members, someone in the mold of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), for instance.
The Club is now involved in five Senate races in 2010: it's backing two
conservative champions, incumbent Sens. DeMint and Tom Coburn (R-OK),
plus challengers Pat Toomey (the Club's former president) in
Pennsylvania and Marco Rubio in Florida. It's involved in three House
races for open seats, supporting Tom Graves in GA-09, Tim Huelskamp in
KS-01, and Kevin Calvey in OK-05.
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