Sen. Bob Bennett knows he'll never be president, a realization the two-term senator says has made it easier for him "to stay quietly in the background and let somebody else hog the spotlight."
That's earned him a reputation as, well, boring at times. But that's OK with Bennett, too.
"At my age, I'm not about to change," the 70-year-old Republican told reporters after he filed Tuesday for re-election. "In Washington, there are two kinds of senators, there are work horses and show horses. I decided I would be a work horse."
The difference? Well, Bennett said, "most of the show horses look in the mirror in the morning and see a president looking back at them. We've not elected a bald president in this country since Eisenhower. . . . I look in the mirror and realize I don't have the qualifications."
Bennett, who at 6 feet 6 inches towers over his colleagues, may be willing to joke about his own appearance. But he was careful not to criticize the state's higher-profile senior senator, former presidential candidate Orrin Hatch at least not by name.
He was also cautious in describing the challenge posed by his Democratic opponent, former Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam. "We're not taking it lightly by any means," Bennett said, noting Van Dam is one of the few Democrats to have won a statewide office.
The race probably won't heat up until after Labor Day, Bennett predicted, because voters will be too busy following the governor's race, where eight candidates, including Gov. Olene Walker, are competing.
The eight were set to be on hand Tuesday night for Bennett's kick-off party, where the senator recalled launching his first Senate campaign 12 years ago.
He was hardly a political novice in 1992, having run campaigns for his late father, Sen. Wallace Bennett, as well as working for the Nixon administration as the chief administrative liaison with Congress for the U.S. Transportation Department.
Although Bennett had a tough primary fight in 1992 against Geneva Steel's Joe Cannon, he beat him by 4 percent in the primary and easily won over the late Democratic Congressman Wayne Owens. Six years later, he defeated his Democratic challenger by a 2-to-1 margin.
Money has played a role in his victories. In 1992, Bennett spent more than $2 million of his own money. In his last race, he raised 10 times more money than Democrat Scott Leckman, $2.77 million compared to just over $221,000.
Bennett made millions after joining Franklin Quest in 1984. Before that, he'd worked for Howard Hughes, the late reclusive billionaire. He also owned a Washington public relations firm tied to the Watergate scandal.
That included accusations by some that Bennett was Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's still-secret "Deep Throat" source that helped unravel the scandal. He has repeatedly denied any involvement, although the accusations ruined his public relations career.
As a senator, Bennett made news by heading up the effort to thwart the Y2K bug that was supposed to crash the world's computers on Jan. 1, 2000. When that didn't happen, people questioned whether the threat was even real rather than praise Bennett for his work.Comment on this story
The accomplishments that Bennett notes these days include getting federal funds for transportation projects in a number of Utah communities, as well as for security at the 2002 Winter Games.
"Those are the things that when the career is over and I'm looking back, I can remember with some satisfaction," Bennett said, "rather than the fiery speeches or the standing ovations."
At one time, he pledged to end his Senate career after two terms. Twelve years seemed like a long time until Bennett learned that seniority rules in the Senate. "After I had my first term, I changed my mind," he said.Six years ago, he told voters that if they gave him a second term, "if my health was good, if I was feeling I was making a contribution, I would run for a third term. Well, it is, I am, and I will."