WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Bennett said Tuesday he's still considering running for a fourth term as a write-in candidate even as Republican leaders publicly discouraged him from doing so.
Bennett failed to win over enough delegates at the Utah GOP convention Saturday to advance to the state's primary election. Conservatives and tea partiers rejected his bid.
He said Tuesday that some of his Senate colleagues privately have encouraged him to run as a write-in, but he declined to identify them. Bennett met with GOP senators at their weekly policy luncheon, where they gave him an ovation and thanked him for his work.
"It's always very heartening to have your colleagues say nice things about you," Bennett said. "It's a little like going to your own funeral while you're still alive."
Bennett, 76, said he has made no firm decisions about his future.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, head of the committee to elect Republicans, said Tuesday that Bennett told him much the same.
"What he told me before lunch is that he's not going to make any decisions now. He's going to basically let a little time pass, and hopefully it'll be less of an emotional decision and more of a thoughtful decision," Cornyn said.
Running as a write-in candidate would be a daunting task.
Cornyn declined to assess how well Bennett would fare. The Bennett name has a long history in Utah politics, with Bennett's father, Wallace F. Bennett, serving four terms as a U.S. senator.
"My hope would be that he would choose not to do that, because certainly we could not support him from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. We would support the Republican nominee," Cornyn said.
The June 22 GOP primary pits businessman Tim Bridgewater against attorney Mike Lee.
Republicans were dismissive of talk that Bennett's defeat served as a harbinger for other GOP lawmakers.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted Utah's unique method of selecting primary candidates, and while acknowledging that voters are unhappy, he didn't think that would be a bad thing for GOP candidates.
"There's a lot of anxious people out there, for very good reason," McConnell said. "And I can predict, I think, with total confidence that that energy in the fall election is going to benefit Republicans."