The strength and influence of the Tea Party movement was on display again last weekend, when GOP delegates in Utah voted incumbent Senator Robert Bennett out of the party. Bennett, who came in third in the vote, lost to two candidates put forward by the Tea Party movement who will now vie for the Republican nomination.
Over the last several months, the 76-year-old three-term senator came under increasing criticism from the movement for his support of the bailout of financial firms and co-sponsoring a healthcare bill with a Democrat, according to media reports.
In the end, not even an endorsement from the NRA and Mitt Romney was enough to save Bennett, who is now rumored to be considering running as an independent.
Commentators are seeing this as "the beginning of a trend," in the words of journalist Robin Wright who spoke Sunday on ABC News‘ "This Week."
In fact, fresh media reports have suggested the Tea Party movement is setting its sights on Republican primaries in other states, including Kentucky, where a vote is set to take place in mid-May.
The developments come just days after Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist announced he was leaving the Republican Party to run for the United States Senate as an independent, after polls showed he was losing popularity to conservative, Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio.