The Tea Party movement has beaten its first sitting senator and he is not a Democrat -- he is a Republican. Utah's GOP ousted incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett at its convention Saturday.
The news cannot be called a shocker because Bennett had known he was in trouble for some time.
"The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic and it's very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment," Bennett said.
Weeks ago, the Tea Party claimed to have taken over Utah's GOP. Delegates were upset because Bennett had voted for federal bailouts and co-sponsored a health care bill with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
"This is a marker in the evolution of the Tea Party movement into becoming a real political force," said John Avlon, Sr., political columnist for The Daily Beast. "They have succeeded in taking a Republican senator who is by most accounts a fellow conservative because he was insufficiently conservative when it came to government spending. That is a real marker of a movement that is reaching maturity."
Late last month the Tea Party helped force Gov. Charlie Crist, I-Fla., to run as an Independent by supporting state House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
"If they stay on fiscal issues, they can have a real impact on this election, there's no question," Avlon said. "They have been able to channel voter anger into something that is genuinely grassroots, not astroturf."
Bennett, who finished a distant third at the convention, said he does not regret his votes.
"Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn't have cast any of them any differently," Bennett said. "Even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career."