Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) (source: Wikimedia)

The Deseret News polled delegates in Utah and determined that Sen. Bob Bennett almost certainly will not be the nominee of his party next year.

Sen. Bob Bennett’s 18-year career in the U.S. Senate could well end in the state GOP convention in two weeks, a broad-ranging new poll of Republican state delegates by the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows.

The Dan Jones & Associates survey, which is also sponsored by the Utah Foundation and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, shows that Bennett, R-Utah, faces a big challenge among the 3,500 Republican delegates who will vote on him and seven other GOP Senate candidates May 8.

Just one key number from the Jones survey: 41 percent of the delegates said they absolutely will not vote for Bennett.

GOP convention rules say the ultimate second-place finisher must have at least 40 percent of the delegate vote to avoid final elimination. And the survey shows Bennett may not reach that percentage in the three rounds of voting.

The way it works in Utah (for Democrats as well as the GOP) is that the state party delegates whittle down the nominees to two, or less if only one candidate reaches above 40%. Then those top two, or top one, get to a primary in June. You’d be right to think this represents an insidery power grab, but the delegates are chosen at the local level in caucuses.

However, it does seem pretty backwards. A separate poll showed Bennett in the lead among all voters, just not among the 3,500 primary delegates which will mass at the convention. Running sparsely attended caucuses to pick 3,500 delegates who decide the choices of the entire Utah electorate seems odd to me.

Bennett still has a shot to make it to the primary as the second choice behind attorney Mike Lee, and he’s playing his hole card: the Mittster.

Just one convention dynamic: Mitt Romney, former Salt Lake Olympic boss and 2008 GOP presidential candidate, will give a Bennett nominating speech.

Romney has already endorsed Bennett, cut a TV ad for him and held a fundraiser for him in Salt Lake City, so Romney’s support is not a surprise.

But seeing and hearing Romney in person — he is arguably the most popular GOP politician in the state (he won the 2008 Utah presidential GOP primary with 90 percent of the vote) — could swing some delegate votes for Bennett on convention day.

What’s crazy about all this is that Bennett is basically a doctrinaire conservative. As I understand it he’s being punished by his party’s activists for writing a health care bill with Ron Wyden that not only didn’t pass, but didn’t even come close to being in the health care conversation. It’s getting so that if you don’t support putting a sheet up between you and the opposing party like an Orthodox Jewish wedding consummation, conservative activists will excommunicate you.

The Deseret News polled delegates in Utah and determined that Sen. Bob Bennett almost certainly will not be the nominee of his party next year.

Sen. Bob Bennett’s 18-year career in the U.S. Senate could well end in the state GOP convention in two weeks, a broad-ranging new poll of Republican state delegates by the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows.

The Dan Jones & Associates survey, which is also sponsored by the Utah Foundation and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, shows that Bennett, R-Utah, faces a big challenge among the 3,500 Republican delegates who will vote on him and seven other GOP Senate candidates May 8.

Just one key number from the Jones survey: 41 percent of the delegates said they absolutely will not vote for Bennett.

GOP convention rules say the ultimate second-place finisher must have at least 40 percent of the delegate vote to avoid final elimination. And the survey shows Bennett may not reach that percentage in the three rounds of voting.

The way it works in Utah (for Democrats as well as the GOP) is that the state party delegates whittle down the nominees to two, or less if only one candidate reaches above 40%. Then those top two, or top one, get to a primary in June. You’d be right to think this represents an insidery power grab, but the delegates are chosen at the local level in caucuses.

However, it does seem pretty backwards. A separate poll showed Bennett in the lead among all voters, just not among the 3,500 primary delegates which will mass at the convention. Running sparsely attended caucuses to pick 3,500 delegates who decide the choices of the entire Utah electorate seems odd to me.

Bennett still has a shot to make it to the primary as the second choice behind attorney Mike Lee, and he’s playing his hole card: the Mittster.

Just one convention dynamic: Mitt Romney, former Salt Lake Olympic boss and 2008 GOP presidential candidate, will give a Bennett nominating speech.

Romney has already endorsed Bennett, cut a TV ad for him and held a fundraiser for him in Salt Lake City, so Romney’s support is not a surprise.

But seeing and hearing Romney in person — he is arguably the most popular GOP politician in the state (he won the 2008 Utah presidential GOP primary with 90 percent of the vote) — could swing some delegate votes for Bennett on convention day.

What’s crazy about all this is that Bennett is basically a doctrinaire conservative. As I understand it he’s being punished by his party’s activists for writing a health care bill with Ron Wyden that not only didn’t pass, but didn’t even come close to being in the health care conversation. It’s getting so that if you don’t support putting a sheet up between you and the opposing party like an Orthodox Jewish wedding consummation, conservative activists will excommunicate you.

David Dayen

David Dayen