Bob the Senator: No He Can’t

While the weather in Southern California has been mainly cool, the national political climate has gotten hot.
The unwritten rule in Congress is that an incumbent gets reelected 80 to 90 percent of the time. While that’s  still true, this election year will probably see more turnover than usual.

Interestingly, this turnover is not waiting for the general election, it’s happening in the primaries and “pre-primaries.”
Utah’s GOP held a convetion on May 8 to determine who would be the Republican candidate for senator. The incumbent Republican Senator, Bob Bennett, did not make the cut. The peculiar thing is that Bennentt is a true conservative. His problem was that he voted “wrongly” for TARP and put together a plan that said, like the Obama bill, health insurance should be mandated.

So, Sen. Bennett voted to save the nation from the brink of collapse and co-sponsored a bill that didn’t go anywhere. After years of being conservative, he blew it with a couple of votes. I bet he’d like to have those back.

Bennett: “Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast any of them any differently; even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career.”

Well, what do you know? I guess I was wrong. He’s sticking behind the principle, “I may be conservative, but I’m not going to let the country go 1929.” Fair enough.

This incumbency problem is not just a Republican problem. On the other side of the spectrum is our Democrat of hour, Arlen Specter.

In the last two years, this Pennsylvanian, a Republican of 44 years, switched parties and has voted with the Democrats 95 percent of the time.

Sen. Specter is as principled as Sen. Bennett – only Specter’s principle is winning. He so eloquently stated, “I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate – not prepared to have that record decided by that jury, the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.“
Lets forget, for a moment, the unforgettable fact that being held responsible by the voters is normal in a representative democracy. The reality is that he is correct. GOP primary voters would almost certainly vote him out in favor of a more conservative candidate. The ironic thing is that Democratic primary voters may also do so.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D), Specter’s challenger in the Democratic primary, is ahead in some polls, if just barely. Theprogressive organization Moveon.org has endorsed good ol’ Joe, while the Democratic establishment, including Pres. Obama, has come out in favor of Sen. Specter.

It will be interesting is to see how much President Obama’s approval will help. It didn’t help in Massachusetts. When the anti-incumbency wave is coming, even President Obama has to get out of the way.

Florida’s governor Charlie Crist is having some problems of his own in his senatorial bid. Originally running as a Republican, his moderate stances alienated GOP primary voters. So much so that, despite previously denying the possibility of an Independent run, he decided to get out of that swimming pool even before the primary election and run as an Independent.

Well, times change. Gov. Crist heard Floridians who said, “Crist, you know how much we hate liars, but there is only one person who could save Florida and this country: Christ. Unfortunately you’re one letter off, but you’ll have to do – run as an Independent.”

While I can’t guarantee that was an exact quote, I can say that with some poetic license, that’s what many incumbents in what were once safe states for reelection are telling themselves.

Some will say they’ve learned from their past mistakes and will now become more liberal or conservative or some will just completely abandon ship.

Either way, there doesn’t seem to be any more room for Bob the Senator from Utah.

Jaye Anthony Estrada is a fourth-year biological sciences and political science double-major. He can be reached at estradaj@uci.edu.