The thin red line in Utah politics

It's a fine line politicians must walk when courting the conservative political base in Utah. Love that base too much and you become a stalker.

Mike Lee, son of the late Rex Lee, the beloved president of Brigham Young University and respected solicitor general under Ronald Reagan, saw his political base as a conservative Mormon population with strong beliefs in the relationship between their faith and the Constitution.

When he decided to run for the U.S. Senate, he zeroed in on that belief and made espousing the true principles of the Constitution the cornerstone of his campaign. After all, the Republican state convention, as always, would be made up of conservative family-values Mormons who believe the federal government has strayed from what the Founding Fathers were divinely inspired to create.

Three-term Sen. Bob Bennett discovered the depths of those feelings when, with a reputation in Washington as a reasonable conservative willing to reach across the political aisles for compromises on sticky issues, he was seen by the Utah delegates as a Washington insider and an appeaser of Democrats.

So Lee saw his opening and his rhetoric was laced with words and phrases familiar to that Mormon base (the Constitution is hanging by a thread, for example).

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