Joe Cannon and Bob Bennett may be the favorites in the U.S. Senate race going into this weekend's state GOP convention, but Brent Ward and Ted Stewart say don't count them out - delegates may provide some surprises.
Cannon and Bennett have spent a lot of money in their quest to persuade the 2,500 delegates to pick one of them. Ward and Stewart haven't. But the two underdogs say if there's any place where big bucks don't go far, it's in the battle for delegates."I really believe momentum is on our side," says Stewart, a former Public Service Commission chairman who has spent $53,000 so far compared to Cannon's $3.7 million. Says Stewart, "My delegates are firm.
There are enough undecideds, I believe, that (a primary slot) could go to any three of us" - Stewart, Ward or Bennett.
Unlike Stewart, Ward isn't willing to even give Cannon the assurance of coming out of the convention. The former U.S. attorney for Utah says if the numbers fall the right way, it could be Ward and Bennett facing each other in the Sept. 8 primary, Cannon and Stewart going back to private life.
"Joe's strength (among delegates) is dwindling," says Ward. "It's a very fluid situation. Anything could happen.
I wouldn't give two bits for any delegate poll right now." Ward has been especially hard on Cannon the past several weeks, sending out fliers to delegates listing the reasons Cannon shouldn't be the party's nominee. While Ward admits some delegates were concerned about his attacks on fellow Republican Cannon, Ward says after he explained to them that he was "trying to probe beneath the surface of (Cannon's) media advertisements" to show some real political liabilities, they understood and rethought their preferences.
What does Cannon think of Stewart's and Ward's belief that maybe he'll have a poor showing Saturday? "Only in their dreams," he says.
Cannon believes he'll get 50 percent of the delegate vote, putting him first in the four-way race and into a primary. "There's a mathematical possibility I could get 70 percent (and win the nomination outright), but really only a mathematical chance. It looks like a primary, and that's fine," says Cannon.
Ward, who has spent $100,000 on his campaign so far, says his message is difficult for some to accept. "With the terrific debt the federal government has burdened us with, I'm telling the delegates I will give you less, not more, government. Some may not like that message."
Bennett, who has spent $725,000 and is considered in second place going into the convention, is carefully watching Ward - who's seen as the third-place finisher now and the one who could knock Bennett out of a primary with Cannon.
Bennett, who has been polling delegates, says he thinks it's Ward who is fading. That's partly because of his attacks on Cannon, but mainly, Bennett says, because Ward "is running the campaign of an angry man - mad about Washington and won't take it anymore. He calls himself a pit bull. People are angry, but I don't see Brent's message sinking in."
Stewart says the $3 trillion debt is the reason he ran. He, also, is preaching we can't afford the government we have. He also thinks Cannon is not the best Republican choice and wonders how much Cannon's contributing to past Democratic campaigns may hurt him Saturday.
While not predicting any negative campaigning by Stewart or Ward, Cannon says those two "must do something (in the convention) if they want to come out." He's ready, Cannon says, for what may come. He says he has 400 delegates who are Cannon volunteers. Each is a team leader and assigned other uncommitted delegates to watch over. Each team leader has been instructed how to respond when others criticize Cannon when, as Geneva Steel president, he gave money to Democratic campaigns or when they're told Cannon can't beat Democrat Wayne Owens in the fall. "We're ready and able to respond to all options in the convention," says Cannon.The Republican State Convention runs Friday and Saturday in Ogden. About 2,500 delegates will vote in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests, while 1st, 2nd and 3rd congressional district delegates will vote on GOP candidates in those races. Tomorrow: a look at the U.S. congressional races.