(The Hill) -- Conservatives have turned to Florida as the central front in their battle with the GOP establishment, but the battle for the Republican Senate nomination in Utah could emerge as the real Tea Party contest.
State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s exit from the race last week paved the way for other candidates to emerge. Though none of them hold statewide offices, or even local ones. Those activists happen to be the group Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) has problems with, and they play an outsized role in the nominating process.
Shurtleff had name recognition and was slowly assembling the money to make a serious race against Bennett, but sources say his issue positions weren’t quite doing it for the conservative crowd. “As time went on, there were more questions about how strong a conservative Shurtleff is,” Utah political strategist Lavarr Webb said. Tea Party organizer David Kirkham said the attorney general’s candidacy was a non-starter. “The Tea Party people, by and large, were not supportive of Shurtleff because of his views on immigration,” Kirkham said. “I don’t think they would have voted for him.”...
A well-placed Utah GOP source said the conservative movement could really have an impact in the state, especially if the Tea Party movement, the 9/12ers and the Patrick Henry Caucus can settle on one candidate. “This is tailor-made for those folks,” the source said. “This is a state where those people can make a difference, and quite honestly, they do not like Bennett.” Another group that could join the cause is the Club for Growth. After endorsing Marco Rubio over Gov. Charlie Crist this week in Florida’s GOP Senate primary, the group will continue to monitor Utah...Cont'd...LINK