An endorsement by soon-to-be-former Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, may help one man who blocked Bennett from renomination at the state GOP convention, observers say.
Bennett was shockingly eliminated on the second ballot during the May convention while businessman Tim Bridgewater took 57 percent on the final ballot against businessman Mike Lee, just short of the 60 percent required to avoid a primary. Bennett was seeking a fourth term.
After toying with the idea of being a write-in candidate in November, Bennett said such a bid would fracture the Utah Republican Party further, take a financial and emotional toll on his family and friends, and add to the "toxic" environment percolating in his home state.
Bennett, a personable conservative member of Congress, was turned aside by a more conservative bloc at the party convention in part because of his vote for the financial bailout in 2008.
"He's a smart guy, and he's a likable personally, but there were a lot of people upset about TARP," Brigham Young University pollster Quin Monson told The Washington Post recently.
Other analysts note Bridgewater's campaign is taking a calculated risk, figuring more people who support Bennett will heed his endorsement than people so angry with Bennett that they'll vote for anyone but him.
One Utah Republican operative told the post the endorsement likely would help come Tuesday, but only slightly.
"There will be more people who will like it, but those people are less likely to vote," the operative said. "People who won't like it are more likely to vote, but when you weigh it, it's a positive."
Lee's campaign has shrugged off the endorsement, with spokesman Boyd Matheson saying if anything, "it will ignite the base that was so engaged at the caucus meetings earlier this year."
Lee has been endorsed by Freedomworks, a national Tea Party organization, as well as by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Lee was ahead in fundraising going into Tuesday's primary, but Bridgewater had more than twice as much money in the bank, much of it coming from Bridgewater's own pocket, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported Friday. New financial disclosures indicated Lee raised nearly $263,000 from mid-April to early June, while Bridgewater collected $141,000. However, Bridgewater had nearly $233,000 on hand, more than doubling Lee's $107,000.
Sam Granato is unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is unopposed in seeking another term. In November, he will face off against Democrat Peter Corroon, Salt Lake County mayor.
In other congressional races, incumbent Rob Bishop and Morgan E. Bowen are unopposed on the Republican and Democratic tickets for the 1st Congressional District.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Morgan Philpot waits for November while incumbent Jim Matheson and political newcomer Claudia Wright duke it out in the Democratic primary.
In the state's 3rd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Jason Chaffetz and Democrat Karen Hyer are unopposed.