Player of the week: Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)

Few thought last year that Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) would soon be facing the battle of his political life. But he is on the ropes in the nation’s most conservative state.

Bennett needs to finish in the top two at this weekend’s GOP convention in Utah to get on the primary ballot. A recent poll showed Republican candidates Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTea Party rises up against McConnell's trillion relief plan Hillicon Valley: Twitter bans thousands of QAnon accounts | Bipartisan support grows for election funds in Senate stimulus bill | Senate committee advances bill to ban TikTok from federal devices Senators demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE and Tim Bridgewater ahead of him, and political observers believe the incumbent seeking his fourth term is now a clear underdog to win his party’s nomination.

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Bennett has raised $2.8 million this cycle while Lee has raked in $153,000, including a $25,000 loan. Bridgewater’s receipts total $378,000, most of that coming from loans to his campaign.

In any other cycle, Bennett would be cruising. But this cycle is one of a kind.

Some voters in Utah are upset that Bennett backed the 2008 financial rescue bill, some are irked at his healthcare bill with Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFrustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock MORE (D-Ore.) and others cite his work on immigration reform.

While struggling to attract support back home, Bennett is widely respected on Capitol Hill. More than half of the Senate GOP caucus has contributed to his campaign. The National Republican Senatorial Committee gave him $42,600 in December.

He is also an effective legislator who is a close adviser of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.).

But Tea Party activists have targeted him and several candidates are claiming the Tea Party label, including Lee, who is the surprising front-runner.

The first sentence of Lee’s biography on his website states, “Mike acquired his love for the Constitution at an early age while discussing everything from the Due Process Clause to the Second Amendment around the dinner table.”

In 2008, Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R) upset incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon (R) in Utah and went on to be elected to the House. Two years later, another GOP incumbent in the reddest state is expected to face a similar fate in the Senate.