In Utah Senate Race, a Tea Party Cage Match
If the leaders of the astroturf segments of the Tea Party movement have shown themselves adept at injecting the movement's DNA into the body of the Republican Party, in the primary for Utah's U.S. Senate race, they're getting a taste of their own bioengineered medicine.
Can you say microcosm?
After pushing Republican Bob Bennett out of the race for his own seat, astroturf groups such as FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express -- the Tea Party establishment, if you will -- endorsed Mike Lee, an attorney who clerked for Justice Samuel Alito back when Alito was a federal judge in New Jersey. Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., also backs Lee, endorsing Lee through DeMint's own PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund. Then there's Glenn Beck; whose local chapters of his 912 Project have endorsed Lee.
But not all Tea Partiers take direction from self-appointed national leaders. At the state GOP convention, stacked with Tea Party activists, where Bennett met his Waterloo, Salt Lake City business consultant Tim Bridgewater won 57 percent of the delegate vote. And though Utah Tea Party founder David Kirkham hasn't made a formal endorsement of the Bridgewater, he keeps saying nice things about Bridgewater -- and not-so-nice things about Lee. From Politico:
"Lee is more isolationist, and Bridgewater has business dealings around the world. I think that’s one of the reasons why 57 percent of them voted for Bridgewater,” Kirkham said, with a jab at Lee’s professional record. “When it gets down to it, Mike Lee is a lawyer. Ninety-five percent of his adult life, he’s been a lawyer for the federal government."
Yeah, but Bridgewater is hardly an anti-establishment kind of figure. He's a business partner with Neil Bush, the ex-president's brother (of Silverado fame). You'll love their little enterprise. According to Alison Peek of the Salt Lake Tribune ( via the Washington Examiner):
[Bridgewater] is co-founder of Ignite!Learning with Neil Bush, brother of President George W. Bush. This company creates education programs for No Child Left Behind, a recipient of millions of federal dollars.
No Child Left Behind was the Bush administration's idea of education reform. (I've heard at least one Washington, D.C. schoolteacher refer to the program as "No Child Left a Dime.")
Bridgewater and Lee will face off next Tuesday in the Republican primary.