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Anyone listening with eyes closed could easily think that Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, is working at the headquarters of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Sam Granato, advising him in a loud, clear voice how to win crossover GOP votes.

It isn't actually the senator. It is his soundalike son and recent campaign manager, Jim Bennett.

"I get that all the time," the younger Bennett says about how much he sounds like his father. He is now a paid Granato aide working as a communications adviser.

That's an unexpected post for a lifelong Republican, not to mention one whose father and grandfather (former Sen. Wallace Bennett) were GOP senators for Utah. But maybe it is not so surprising for someone upset that his father was depicted by other GOP candidates as not conservative enough for Utah.

He says he is supporting Granato now because "he lines up well with the mainstream in Utah, and actually with the mainstream in the Utah Republican Party. Sam is practical. He is willing to reach across party lines for real solutions."

Bob Bennett has officially endorsed Republican nominee Mike Lee. But the younger Bennett says he could not do that after watching Lee closely as he managed his father's campaign.

"Mike Lee would wave the Constitution in your face and make it sound like he was the fulfillment of the White Horse prophecy," he said, referring to what some LDS Church members believe — that the Constitution will hang by a thread but be saved by Mormon elders essentially riding in on a white horse to the rescue.

"As someone who is a Republican and LDS, that bothered me," Bennett says. "While Lee may never have overtly spoken about that [being the one to save the Constitution], his followers sure did."

Jim Bennett said he felt that Lee also staked out far-right positions — such as wanting to do away with federal spending earmarks — that meant "that if he is elected, he will either be ineffective as a senator, or he will disappoint many of the followers who helped elect him" by moderating his stands.

Bennett said he is not helping Granato out because Lee defeated his father. "I'm sure he's a good person, a good husband and a good father. I just don't like his positions," Bennett said.

"I don't like where he and the party are going," Bennett added. "His followers are taking positions out of anger. ... I don't feel like they are offering any realistic solutions" but instead attack anything they do not like by calling it "unconstitutional."

Bennett also contends that Lee is changing right-wing positions that were made earlier to please tea party activists, who were delegates to the Republican State Convention, moderating those positions now to win over regular voters in the general election.

"I sat in a debate [prior to the convention] before the Utah County Women where Mike Lee said that Social Security would need to be phased out, that you would need to pay into it but may not get benefits when you are old enough to retire," Bennett said.

"But in a [recent] KUED debate, he took a much more moderate stand, just saying that we need to make adjustments in Social Security to make sure benefits didn't grow faster than inflation."

With Bennett's help, Granato has tried to depict Lee as a right-wing extremist. For example, he issued a news release titled "A tale of two Mikes" listing examples of comments he says show Lee is moderating earlier stances on federal funding, radioactive waste, nuclear testing, immigration and the war in Afghanistan.

When Lee's campaign was asked what it thought about Jim Bennett working for Granato, Boyd Matheson, spokesman for Lee, stressed that many other supporters of Bob Bennett are working for Lee now.

"Mike Lee is very thankful for the tremendous support and endorsement of Sen. Bob Bennett. Key members of Bob Bennett's campaign are now on board with Mike Lee. Former Bennett campaign chairman Greg Hopkins is now a Mike Lee supporter, and former campaign manager Andy Stephenson is now filling an important role," Matheson said.

Jim Bennett says that he talked to his father before jumping in to help Granato. "It has not caused any friction between us," he said.

Bob Bennett told The Salt Lake Tribune recently that he is rooting for the entire GOP slate in Utah, and has nothing to do with his son's work with the Granato campaign.

"I have learned on matters of this kind that I cannot dictate to my son," the senator said.

Meanwhile, the younger Bennett said his work for Granato has brought stronger reactions from other Republican friends — especially those working for Lee — than it did from his father.

"They tell me I am the devil himself," he says with a shrug and a smile.

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