Utah Party Conventions Chose Weird, Unconventional Routes | Opinion
We have attended or closely followed political conventions for nearly 50 years (yes, cavemen have held conventions). Given that last week’s rallies were pretty unprecedented (ie bizarre), we’re using all of that experience for seasoned (old fog) analysis.
At the GOP convention, Senator. mike lee was essentially crowned with more than 70% of the vote of the delegates. Some incumbent federal and state lawmakers came in second, but will still be on the primary ballot. Govt. spencer cox and sen. Mitt Romney were no-shows. Meanwhile, Democrats declined to nominate a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, instead of supporting independence Evan McMullin. What do all these intrigues and troubles mean?
Pignanelli: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not said.” — Peter Drucker
Much has been said about what happened at these conventions. Yet equally important is what did not happen.
The absence of Cox and Romney from the events, regardless of “pre-existing commitments”, is a significant statement. Additionally, there were no recriminations against the Utah GOP chairman. Carson Jorgensen for appearing on national television openly attacking these top Republicans. These omissions reveal a split within the state’s largest political party. This crack is more than delegates fiddling with collecting signatures; competing ideologies are involved.
Many Democratic delegates hate Lee so much they’re willing to ditch a very credible candidate – Kael Weston — to engage in a coalition with McMullin. The big vacancy in their convention was that no one offered a compelling reason to vote for McMullin as someone other than he’s not Lee. This unusual strategy would be understandable if the independent candidate were a Utahn well known and appreciated for his bipartisan community involvement (i.e. Scott Anderson, Gail Miller). The impacts of this disconcerting result will be felt for years.
The major shifts transforming the country’s political parties are affecting local politics, as noted by notable absences from recent activities.
Webb: Once again, the Republican delegates have convincingly demonstrated that they are not representative of the party as a whole. A number of popular, respected and accomplished leaders finished second to little-known far-right activists. But the incumbents will win hands down in the GOP primary when all Republicans are eligible to vote.
Traditional Republicans in Utah should once again thank the former governor. Mike Leavitt, Gail Miller, Rich McKeown and others who have had the foresight to push initiatives to make everyone’s vote count in the nominating process. Otherwise, Utah’s politics would be much different – and more extreme – today. The ability to collect signatures must be protected at all costs. He is attacked by the extreme right at each legislative session.
How will Mike Lee fare in the three-way primary with Becky Edwards and Ally Isom? Can McMullin defeat Lee in the general election?
Pignanelli: Lee has more than 60% support among Republicans. Opponents of his appointment are split between two challengers. The main result is predictable.
McMullin’s strategy is interesting but difficult. Lee averaged about 67% of the vote in previous elections. The independent will need to capture all Democrats (29% average) while persuading an additional 20% of unaffiliated Republicans and Utahns to drop Lee. But the dynamics of 2022 create difficult barriers. Without a Democrat at the front of the ticket, as national organizations defend incumbent members of Congress in other states, resources to train voters against Lee will be limited. Moreover, polls indicate that electoral momentum and enthusiasm are on the Republican side. McMullin has yet to establish an appealing individual identity. Lee’s critics apparently guaranteed his re-election.
Webb: McMullin is, for all intents and purposes, a Democrat. He was vigorously courted, and has now been endorsed, by some of Utah’s most liberal Democrats. Does anyone really think Utah voters will send him to Washington with control of the Senate and leadership of the country at stake?
What does McMullin stand for? We don’t know much, except that he hates donald trump and is outraged by everything about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including Lee’s messages to Trump staff afterward.
McMullin’s problem is that January 6 is not the main issue in this election. It will be energy and gas prices, more inflation, the border crisis, crime, the war in Ukraine, and it will be a referendum on the Biden administration and Democratic leaders. If beating Lee on Jan. 6 is all McMullin has, good luck.
Most Utahans are fed up with the January 6 drama. Yes, Trump tried to do everything possible to overturn the election. It was stupid of him, and it didn’t work. Trump should just walk away. But the republic is safe, so let’s get to the real issues. That poor old dead mule can only be whipped so long without annoying everyone to tears.
With Democratic support in hand, watch McMullin suddenly turn more conservative to please Republicans. It will be a difficult transition to make.
Pignanelli & Webb: A friend of your two columnists, Orrin Hatching, died last Saturday. He was a monumental player in American politics for over 40 years. He deserves the accolades and accolades that have filled the national and local media. We remember him as a strong defender of our state and our people. Although immensely powerful, Hatch was always kind to those without influence or status. This, more than anything, defines his character.