By Mark Memmott
Incumbents aren't such a sure-thing anymore.
Members of Congress from both major parties are surely thinking hard this morning about the rejection Saturday of Utah Sen. Bob Bennett by his own Republican Party.
A senator since 1992, one of the most consistent conservatives in Congress and someone who brought the bacon home, Bennett was defeated in his attempt to again win his party's nomination in large part because he's an influential senator. As Politico says:
"There was an unmistakable message to incumbents on both sides of the aisle: This is no ordinary year, and the ordinary, time-honored methods of winning votes may not be enough."
The Salt Lake Tribune sums up the factors that combined to bring down Bennett at the state GOP's party convention this way:
"A member of the Senate appropriations committee and close adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Bennett came under fire in recent months for supporting the first round of bank bailouts during the Bush administration and his co-sponsorship of a bipartisan health reform package that would have required individuals to buy insurance.
"That anger melded with an anti-incumbent rage. Fueled by tea party movement and 9/12 groups, Republicans flooded their party caucuses, nearly doubling the turnout two years ago, and endangering Bennett."
What's next? In Utah, as The Washington Post writes," the two remaining candidates -- lawyer Mike Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater, both of whom courted tea party voters ... will compete again in a June 22 primary election. Either way , Utah is all but sure to elect a candidate in the fall with significant tea party support."
And, the Post adds: "Next up is Kentucky, where tea party candidate Rand Paul is running hard in a GOP primary battle (on May 18) against Trey Grayson, the handpicked candidate of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell."
For a don't-read-too-much-into-this view of the news from Utah, though, check out Nate Silver's latest post at FiveThirtyEight.com. He notes that "the 3,500 delegates who select Utah's Republican candidates -- chosen at local precinct meetings -- are highly informed and extremely conservative activists who are not representative of Utah Republicans as a whole nor the Republican primary electorates in other states."