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If it's true that money is the mother's milk of politics, then Republican U.S. Senate candidates Joe Cannon and Bob Bennett are overeating, and Brent Ward and Ted Stewart are starving to death.

And political death - at least for this election year - may be what awaits Ward and Stewart in next week's state GOP convention, in part because they have not been able - or willing - to spend the huge sums Cannon and Bennett are spending.Federal Election Commission financial reports due a week before their state convention show Cannon, the major stockholder in Geneva Steel, has raised more than $4 million seeking to replace retiring Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.

Most of the money - 94 percent - has come from outright donations by Cannon to his own campaign or loans to the campaign secured by Cannon. Cannon has spent $3.7 million since getting in the race a year ago.

Bennett, a millionaire through his stock in Franklin Quest Co., which sells Franklin Daytime Planners, has raised $770,067. Bennett gave or lent his campaign 92 percent of that - $711,220. Bennett has spent $726,957.

Ward and Stewart aren't even close and say the big spending by Cannon and Bennett may mean only rich men can successfully seek the office of U.S. senator in Utah.

Ward has raised $100,000; Stewart only $64,000. Ward has given or lent his campaign just $3,000. Stewart hasn't lent or given his campaign any money. Together, Ward and Stewart have raised just 3.3 percent of the amount Cannon and Bennett have raised for their campaigns combined.

Together, Cannon and Bennett have raised nearly $5 million - and that's before their party convention.

By contrast, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, no shrinking violet when it comes to campaign spending, raised $4 million over six years before his 1988 re-election. He spent more than $3 million in the year of his re-election.

Cannon has spent that already and still faces a primary and a general election.

Bennett didn't plan to spend so much money so soon. But he says Cannon's early spending forced him to come out quicker than he wished. Over a three-day period earlier this month, Bennett gave or lent his campaign $189,000 - three times as much as Stewart has raised in six months of campaigning.