SALT LAKE CITY — Warning that tea party "mischief" may be aiding Democrats this election season, defeated Utah Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett says that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likely will keep his seat and that the GOP may not win hotly contested Senate races in Colorado or Kentucky either.
In an interview in his home state with The Associated Press, Bennett also suggested that Republicans may not have a clear plan to govern even if they do take control of the Senate this year.
Weighing in on election season, Bennett expressed concern over the fiercely contested GOP primary in Colorado and said that, in Nevada, Reid appears to be a shoo-in to defeat Sharon Angle, a tea party candidate who won the Republican nomination last month.
"With the tea party creating the mischief that it is in Colorado, we may not win that seat. My sources in Nevada say with Sharon Angle there's no way Harry Reid loses in Nevada," he said about the GOP challenger to Democratic Senate majority leader.
In Kentucky's Senate race, he said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been making strides to help tea party favorite Rand Paul avoid a loss there.
"Rand Paul – that's a seat we could lose in Kentucky, but McConnell seems to be helping stabilize Rand Paul and pulling back from some of his more dangerous statements," he said in the interview Thursday.
Bennett, 76, lost his chance at a fourth term in the Senate when he finished third in his own party's nominating convention this spring.
His own political fortunes aside, he worried that the GOP has no clear plan to govern if they take control of the Senate this election year.
"That's my concern, that at the moment there is not a cohesive Republican strategy of this is what we're going to do. And certainly among the tea party types there's clearly no strategy of this is what we're going to do," he said.
Still, Bennett said there are Republicans who could have an immediate impact in Washington should they win in November, including Delaware Rep. Mike Castle and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven who he says is "already viewed as a heavy hitter."
Bennett, a policy wonk who typically shuns the spotlight, likened the nation's political atmosphere to that of the Vietnam War era.
"In those days they were willing to give up on America from the left, and in these days they're are too many people willing to give up on America from the right," he said. "I don't have that sense of despair, which worked against me in the campaign, because they said we want more passion out of you – passion being we want you standing there screaming about how horrible everybody is, along with the talk show hosts that are screaming how horrible it is," Bennett said.
"And if you don't scream, you don't have passion, and if you don't have passion you don't care. I'm saying wait a minute, things as bad as they are, are not that horrible."
While he stays abreast on politics around the country, Bennett said he is relieved that he doesn't have to participate in partisan posturing any more.
"Too much of our time is spent playing the game. Who is going to win? How do we defeat him? How do we block her? And not enough time is spent 'How do we solve the problem?'" he said.
Bennett, the grandson of a Mormon Church president, said he's still not sure what he will do once he leaves office. Options he's considering include serving as the head of a trade association, working as a professor, consulting law firms and going on the lecture circuit.
He also said he would consider getting back into the business world. Before running for office Bennett headed a public relations company, a computer company and a firm that produces day planners.