Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: A few political issues to contemplate on cold and smoggy days

It has been cold and smoggy outside, dampening holiday cheer. So you might as well stay inside and contemplate a few political issues. Here are some we’re thinking about.

Recent survey research shows that Utah voters, especially conservative Republicans, give freshman U.S. Sen. Mike Lee good job approval ratings. His numbers are higher than his Senate colleague Orrin Hatch, who also enjoys respectable approval numbers. How has Lee eclipsed the long-serving Hatch, who is one of the Senate’s most powerful members?

Pignanelli: “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” — Benjamin Disraeli

Lee is defying the old mantra by "having his cake and eating it too." Three years ago he was a "dead man walking" whom many mainstream Republicans targeted for defeat. The animosity toward him substantially fostered the Count My Vote effort to reform the delegate/convention system.

Despite the grumbles, Lee never wavered from the persona that he was an outsider to Washington who despised the failures of both parties. He continually advocated edgy new-wave conservative ideas to tackle entitlement and budget issues. Eventually Lee captured the support of GOP bigwigs who once opposed him.

Lee is the rare incumbent who enjoys the same anti-establishment wave pushing Donald Trump and Ben Carson. A challenger without deep resources faces a near-impossible task to avoid delegates (who enthusiastically support Lee) by obtaining 30,000 petition signatures. So Lee will readily capture the nomination in a process created to defeat him. This leaves the question whether the senator prefers chocolate or vanilla frosting.

Hatch is a true statesman with a rich legacy of building bipartisan coalitions to accomplish legislative objectives. However, such pragmatism roils ultra-right-wingers. They suffer from a “What have you done for me lately” syndrome and too easily forget Hatch was an early warrior for their issues (i.e., balanced budget, states' rights, etc.)

Webb: Lee’s right-wing support boosts him above Hatch. Lee is loved by the far right and hated by the left. Hatch is disliked by both the far left and the far right. Lee is a quick learner. Just one year ago, billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. called Lee “a tremendous embarrassment to our family, to our state, to our country.” Prominent business leaders were actively seeking to defeat him.

Today, he enjoys the best of both worlds. He has enthusiastic support from the base, along with cautious support of mainstream Republican leaders. He no longer seeks to shut down the government. He works across the aisle on many issues. He seeks conservative solutions to problems instead of just being against everything.

Hatch, however, remains Utah’s true power in the U.S. Senate. He is wisely and effectively using that power to benefit Utah and the nation.

Salt Lake City Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupskirequested resignation letters from city officials whom the mayor appoints. Is this business as usual for a new administration or was it arrogant and hurtful?

Pignanelli: This may be the top overblown nonissue news item of the year. I conjecture most appointees in the Becker administration are not surprised by this development. City voters communicated a clear mandate for change in City Hall to Biskupski. She is delivering on her promise.

Webb: This is much ado about nothing. Any newly elected executive gets to pick her team, and requesting a resignation letter from everyone is the best way to start the process. Anyone working in an appointed position knows his or her job is tied to the boss. When the boss is gone, the job is at risk.