David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

Normal Version

Saturday, May 8, 2010
Post-Convention Musings

I tweeted and tweeted and tweeted, and Facebooked. Why I'm not ecstatic about Senator Bennett's loss, even though I voted for someone else -- and it's not buyer's remorse. Some analysis of the Senate campaign. Some topics for the near future. A tribute.


Well, it's over -- the beginning is, anyway, in the form of the Utah State Republican Party Nominating Convention. Afterward, I rode home with my state representative, the redoubtable John Dougall, and we discussed issues, candidates, and races all the way. He is a very shrewd observer of the Utah political scene, thinks fairly deeply about politics and government (trying to connect policies and principles), and actually listens when other people talk.

Then I had dinner. Then I painted my back door, while listening to the Utah Jazz not quite beat the Lakers, alas. Now it's time to blog a bit.

I tweeted frequently during the convention (@LocalCommentary), picking up a number of followers and being retweeted several times by the offical party twitter account ($utahgop) -- which I didn't realize until just now, actually. I posted less frequent updates to Facebook.

You can read my convention tweets for a while at this blog's main page; later I'll move them to my Twitter archive. (Good grief! Will any of us ever speak English again?)


To me the day feels . . . consequential. In the races in which I had a vote, only one, the US Senate race, goes to a primary election in June. In the governor's race, Governor Herbert thumped his two challengers quite soundly on the first ballot, winning the nomination with more tha 70 percent of the vote. In the race for US House of Representatives, Morgan Philpot finished a few percent under the 60 percent needed to avoid a primary with Neil Walter. On the second ballot, however, he received 60.1 percent of the vote, winning the nomination without a primary. Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, incumbent Congressman Jim Matheson (also in the Second District) faces a primary against Claudia Wright, who comes at him from the left, insisting that he's not enough of a Democrat.

If you've heard anything about the convention results, you've heard that Senator Bob Bennett's career in the Senate is ending at three terms. Here's a quick summary of how that went:

  • The first ballot, to reduce the field of eight candidates to three, had Mike Lee finishing first with 28.7 percent of the vote. Tim Bridgewater was a close second with 26.8 percent. Bob Bennett was a very close third with 25.9 percent. Cherilyn Eagar finished fourth and out of the running with 15.8 percent. I was surprised Bennett did so well; I thought that Eagar might have given him a run for third. The other four split less than 3 percent of the vote.
  • In the second ballot, it appears that Bridgewater (37.4 percent) picked up more of the Eagar vote than Lee (36.0 percent) did, and Bennett (26.6 percent) picked up little. Bennett was eliminated. I actually knew more delegates who were choosing between Eagar and Lee than between Eagar and Bridgewater, but other delegates told me they had observed the opposite.
  • In the third ballot, somewhat to my surprise, Bridgewater picked up most of Bennett's voters, finishing with 57.3 percent to Lee's 42.7 percent.

I don't know how much the margins matter, when the result is a primary election. I don't know anyone who thinks that state convention delegates are a good cross-section of Republican voters generally.

Lee vs. Bridgewater

Mike Lee is running his first campaign; Bridgewater is not. This showed at a few points in the six weeks between caucuses and convention. Lee is learning not to talk like a lawyer, which helps. He's been embarrassed by a staffer or two who slipped into loose cannon mode. And he needs to continue improving his ability to connect his constitutional knowledge and passion with the economic issues about which ordinary people, I fear, care more. Bridgewater is older, a campaign veteran, is basing his campaign on the economic side of things, and has rather easily adopted most of Lee's constitutional bullet points along the way. He has a reputation for strong finishes at the convention; his lackluster reputation as a candidate thereafter may not be relevant, now that he has a professional campaign staff. We shall see.

I ended up voting for Mike Lee on all three ballots. I still think the fiscal issues and the constitutional issues are opposite ends of the same stick, and I still prefer to pick up the constitutional end of the stick first. But, as I said, it's the economic or fiscal end of the stick which it seems most voters will want to pick up.

I think Lee was hurt by the Bennett and Bridgewater attack on an Afghanistan position which wasn't exactly his. This was fed by a young and zealous Lee staffer who I hope knows better now. And I think there's an understandable, but not entirely justified, prejudice against lawyers among Utah Republicans. The truth is, I want a conservative constitutional lawyer in Washington. But in that I am in a minority, at least today. It will be an interesting race.

As the primary begins, my vote is Mike Lee's to lose. He may lose it, or he may not. But I'll be paying attention.

There Is Something Lost Here

While the delegates at the convention were gracious, there was a certain amount of crowing in the social media about Senator Bennett's defeat. For my part, I am not gleeful. It is a sobering thing. It's not buyer's remorse, and it's not just because in the end I wasn't sure for whom I'd vote, if it came down to Bennett and Bridgewater.

Bob Bennett has done much good in Washington. His knowledge and experience are vast indeed -- and, personally, I still enjoy listening to him when he analyzes issues, talks about history, or gets fired up in campaign mode. He made a few votes in the last year and a half which I think he thought were right, and they have cost him his job. I disagreed with a couple of major things there -- others disagreed with more -- but there is some honor there, in doing what you think needs to be done, and damn the torpedoes, so to speak. And I have to say that he talked a lot of sense to a lot of delegates who did not want their principles muddied by political reality.

My vote for someone else -- Mike Lee, in the event -- was carefully considered with this in mind. Are a challenger's attributes and promise in the coming years sufficient cause to justify losing what we lose when Bob Bennett steps away? I think that they are, but the future is not exactly carved in stone. There are some unknowns here, some hopes, some uncertainties.

We take serious decisions seriously, do the best we can, and see how things turn out. If you want ironclad guarantees, wow, are you on the wrong planet!

Coming Up Soon, I Hope

It's late, and it has been a long day and a long week. So I'm resisting the temptation to finish tonight a blog post on any of the following themes -- but something's gestating on each of these:

  • The importance of getting involving in a major political party, rather than retreating to a third party or being unaffiliated.
  • The crucial role of Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine -- and its serious limitations, and how it might apply to our present politics.
  • Whether Utah's caucus/convention system is fair and representative or not.
  • Some crucial things we have to do in the long term, for the present conservative awakening to mean anything.

One of those post I have written, scrapped, and rewritten a few times already.

We'll probably chat about a lot of other things in coming weeks and months, too, including a local school board race. So many blog posts to write, so little time . . .

A Salute

One final thought: I have been impressed by the seriousness of the state delegates -- and the county delegates too, for that matter. I found a lot who wanted to talk, who were interested in what others thought and why, and who were willing to speak candidly of the strengths and weaknesses even of the candidates whom they supported. There were a few ideologues thrown in, but not as many as you might think. Some people with more experience as state delegates than I said that this year's batch seemed to take things unusually seriously, to have unusually open minds (despite their principles and opinions), and to work uncommonly hard at their jobs. And -- perhaps less importantly, I admit -- I mentioned on Twitter than only two of the male state delegates today were wearing their hats or caps indoors, which means their manners (and probably their mothers) were a cut above average. Speaking of manners, the vast majority of the delegates were gracious and kind even to those whom they opposed. And I cannot imagine any 3500-person cross-section of voters devoting even a good fraction of the time the delegates have given over the past several weeks to . . . how shall I say? . . . getting it right when they voted, whatever that may have meant to them.

I was pleased and honored to be one of them.

Thanks for reading.

Normal Version