Utah Tea Party organizer David Kirkham sends this report from last night's Republican Party caucusing:
Here is the report on Caucus night here in Utah. Here in Utah we elect delegates to the Republican convention. At convention, if a candidate gets 60% of the delegate vote, they immediately advance to general election with NO primary. This levels the playing field so candidates with relatively little money can challenge an entrenched incumbent.
Tonight I ran for precinct chair in my district. We usually have 40 people show up to caucus night. Tonight we had 67. Everyone running to be a delegate (the chair is automatically a state and county delegate) was allowed a 2 minute speech, then 5 minutes for questions. In my speech I told them I organized Utah's first Tea Party a year ago. Applause. I told them I have helped to organize more than I can remember–maybe 14 or so. More applause. I told them I was not involved in politics at all before the Tea Parties. I had never even voted in a primary before this year–though I did vote in all the general elections.
I told them about our factory in Poland and how I would NEVER vote for Socialism. My first question was if I would vote for Bennett. I said, "Absolutely not." "Why not?" I was asked. "Because he voted for TARP and the bailouts. He voted to turn out the lights." Big applause. The next guy got up and said pretty much the same thing about Bennett (he later became Vice-Chair). A third guy got up and said how much we needed Bennett. He extolled how much we needed his experience and influence. Then, we voted. I got 58 of 67 votes cast in the first count. (Now, I think that was more of a vote for the Tea Party and a vote against Bennett more than anything I said–I'm just another blade of grass in the movement.)
Next we voted for Vice Chair. A Bennett supporter came in last out of 3.
Then we voted for State Delegates. A Bennett supporter came in last out of 2.
Then we voted for County Delegates. We have 5 in our precinct and 6 people ran. County delegates don't even vote for state seats like Senators at convention–only state delegates do. No matter, the first question EVERYONE asked–"Are you going to vote for Bennett?" The lone Bennett supporter came in tied for last out of the 6–he then conceded the seat.
Conclusion: My Tea Party buddies texted me all night from their own precincts as Bennett supporters fell. EVERYWHERE, Bennett was toxic. In our straw poll, Bennett came in 3rd. Maybe there is hope after all.
UPDATE: Reader Randy Simmons emails: "My caucus was exactly the opposite. At the caucus meeting two years ago there were 8 people who attended. This time there were 45. Forty-two of them supported Bob Bennett. Almost all of them were highly offended by the Club for Growth campaign against Bennett. In private conversations it appeared that nearly everyone would support Mike Lee, Bennett's main opponent, over Senator Hatch but not over Senator Bennett. This caucus meeting was in Cache County, one of the more conservative areas of the state and I was the only person in the room employed at the university so they were not a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals living off the state."
ANOTHER UPDATE: More reporting from Utah. "9 people showed up for the last precinct caucus – there were over 50 last night. I lost by 2 votes. BUT THIS IS THE KICKER — I lost to Senator Bennett's BROTHER. I knew that I live in a pretty entrenched area for Senator Bennett, and I knew I was running against his brother for state delegate, and I knew it was a long shot – BUT I ONLY LOST BY 2 VOTES."