Sen. Bob Bennett, a conservative who fell out of favor among even more conservative Republicans in an anti-incumbent rage, failed to get his party's nomination in Utah
Saturday, making it very difficult for him to seek a fourth term.
The gangly, bespectacled senator finished third in the second round of balloting at the Republican state convention
in Salt Lake City, sealing his fate, the Salt Lake Tribune
reported. Businessman Tim Bridgewater
and lawyer and Tea Party favorite Mike Lee
finished first and second respectively and will face off in a June 22 primary.
When results were announced there were shouts of "he's gone, he's gone," as some GOP delegates waved "Do Not Tread On Me" flags -- a favored symbol of the aggressively conservative Tea Party movement.
In defeat, Bennett becomes the first incumbent Utah senator to be deprived of his party's nomination since Democrats ousted Sen. William King in 1940 over his opposition to the New Deal, the Tribune said.
Bennett, 76, was in tears, saying "the political atmosphere obviously has been toxic and it's very clear that some of the votes I have cast have added to the toxic environment." He was faulted, in particular, for supporting the Troubled Asset Relief Program -- the so-called bailout bill. He could yet try a write-in candidacy, but it would be a huge challenge.