The 2009 election ended Tuesday, and the first 2010 election TV ad by a local candidate aired Thursday when Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, attacked not the many conservatives who are challenging him but instead took a shot at President Barack Obama and Democrats' health-care reform.
"Government-run health care would be a disaster. The fight to stop 'Obamacare' is now. You can't wait until after the government is in control of your health care. Now is the time to draw the line," Bennett says in the ad.
He adds, "Health-care reform should be based on free-market principles, not government bureaucracy. I'm on the front lines in this battle, and I'll keep fighting against government-run health care because the stakes in this battle are too high. The fight is now."
That early ad comes after Bennett already reported spending a whopping $545,000 from July through September in his latest disclosure forms, or more than many Utah congressional campaigns spend over an entire election cycle.
Jim Bennett, the senator's son and campaign manager, has said the senator is spending heavily early because he realizes the real race his father must win is in the state GOP convention, where delegates often are more conservative than the state as a whole and where conservatives challenging him have the best chance at success.
If a candidate receives 60 percent of delegate votes at the convention, he or she becomes the party's nominee for the general election; otherwise, the top two candidates advance to a primary election.
Jim Bennett said about the new ad, "This message demonstrates why Utahns need to send Sen. Bennett back to Washington. The fight is now. We need proven leaders like Sen. Bennett in the fight against government health care."
The ad comes just before key votes are scheduled in Congress on health-care reform, and a couple months after the senator was attacked in a $90,000 local TV ad campaign by the conservative Club for Growth for an alternative reform bill he has been pushing with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The club contended in its ads, and in letters it sent to state convention delegates, that Bob Bennett's plan would help lead to government-run health care and huge tax increases. Bob Bennett said the ads grossly mischaracterized his bill and said his bill would prevent a government takeover of health care.
Conservative Republicans currently challenging Bennett include former congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater, businesswoman Cherilyn Eagar and small-business man James Russell Williams III. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff dropped out of the race this week to spend time with a daughter combating suicidal behavior.
Bridgewater on Friday attacked Bennett's early TV ads, and challenged him to put some action behind his words.
"Bob is spending thousands of dollars to go on TV and tell Utahns what they already know, that Obamacare is bad for America," he said.
"Rather than paying lip service to this critical issue, Sen. Bennett should use the one tool available to the minority party in the Senate. I call on Sen. Bennett to publicly declare to the Democrat leaders that he will take the floor and filibuster the health-care debate until the Democrats allow for an honest negotiation," he said.