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August Miller, Deseret News
National and local media attend the GOP State Convention at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City Saturday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Reporters for national media outlets descended on the state Republican convention Saturday, smelling blood in Utah's Senate race.

GOP media coordinator Heather Barney said she provided credentials to news organizations including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Politico, CNN, C-SPAN and others.

National political reporters were watching Sen. Bob Bennett's re-election bid because he is the first incumbent senator to lose his party's nomination this year, said Politico reporter Dave Cantanese, who attended the convention.

"This will be a big national story if the incumbent goes down," he said.

Bennett's loss has "huge" national implications, Cantanese said.

"This is a state where the anti-establishment fervor has really bubbled over," he said.

Cantanese, who also watched Arlen Spector's re-election fight in Pennsylvania, said Politico doesn't usually cover state conventions unless there is a very competitive race.

Some local journalists also got into the action, reporting for national news outlets.

Salt Lake City Weekly managing editor Josh Loftin was contracted to blog from the convention for Salon.com, an online arts and culture magazine.

"They are really interested in the Senate race," he said. "A Bennett loss could be just the first in a series and they are watching that closely."

Loftin said the editors at Salon.com were looking for a local perspective.

"It is very telling that they called local people," he said. "They wanted real insight into Utah's conservative mentality."

News organizations are watching to see how national tea party and similar movements affect politics across the country, said New York Times Rocky Mountain bureau chief Kirk Johnson.

"Utah is a story all of its own," he said. "It's hard to say what Bennett's situation may mean for the region but these tea party movements express themselves differently in each state."

e-mail: jsmth@desnews.com