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FreedomWorks entering Utah Senate Race with direct mail, phone banks, rallies

Conservative group FreedomWorks is about to enter Utah's volatile Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate with direct mail and phone calls on behalf of Mike Lee, a constitutional lawyer challenging Sen. Bob Bennett.

As I reported last week, independent polling of the 3,500 delegates who will choose the GOP nominee at a May 8 convention shows Lee in a far stronger position than Bennett, a third-term incumbent badly wounded by his vote for TARP and his support for a (now irrelevant) compromise health-care reform bill. Lee, a first-time candidate, met with FreedomWorks last year to make his pitch and soon became one of the first candidates endorsed by the PAC, which works closely with the "tea party" movement.

That endorsement is set to translate into a $4,000 buy for two mailings -- one positive, one contrasting Lee's and Bennett's stances -- that will be sent to every delegate. It's also taking the form of a call sheet distributed to a small number of FreedomWorks activists, tasked with calling up Utah delegates and making the case for Lee.

"Bennett's going to lose," said Russ Walker, the northwest director of FreedomWorks, who is organizing much of this campaign. "The critical thing is getting Lee to 60 percent support at the convention."

FreedomWorks campaigners are confident of beating Bennett because, they say, tea party activists have been elected as convention delegates. Walker estimated that "60 percent to two-thirds" of the delegates are tea party activists, many of them first-time GOP activists. Supporters of Bennett, he said, simply haven't built the support to be elected delegates. The job of FreedomWorks activists will be to convince the other delegates that Lee can, in the words of FreedomWorks President Matt Keebe, "be with us 100 percent, replacing someone who was with us 60 percent."

"We've watched Lee in the debates," said Max Pappas, managing director of the FreedomWorks PAC. "He brings everything back to the question of where the Senate gets the authority to use this power or that power."

By David Weigel  |  April 26, 2010; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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