As twisted, demented political observers, your columnists love everything about polling and the dynamics driving the results. Even better, we can always make our observations substitute for an intelligent explanation. We offer our insights on recent interesting surveys of Utahns by Dan Jones & Associates for UtahPolicy.com.
Local Republicans are out of sync with Republicans nationwide in presidential candidate preferences. Jeb Bush fares much better than Donald Trump (61 percent-32 percent) in a head-to-head matchup. Ben Carson is popular (18 percent support), but most mainstream candidates are competitive. Hillary Clinton (11 percent) is losing to Bernie Sanders (22 percent). Why are we different?
Pignanelli: “Every city has a Donald Trump; ours is just the Trumpiest.” — Padma Lakshmi, host of "Top Chef"
Utahns rightfully swell with pride over notable achievements — transforming this desert into a paradise, the Transcontinental Railroad, advancement in science and technology, 2002 Winter Olympics, etc. Add to this list of extraordinary accomplishments the rejection of Donald Trump buffoonery by commonsense Utahns.
When Utahns peel back the gentle demeanor of Carson and discover a real liberal (i.e. his platform includes eliminating private health insurance, free medical school education, more regulations on banks), support for the neurosurgeon will diminish. Bush and Marco Rubio are the likely top favorites in January.
Sanders' popularity fatally wounds the old canard that “A Utah Democrat is a Republican anywhere else.” Undecided (34 percent) is still the leading candidate among Democrats. This bloc, and Vice President Biden’s 16 percent, will move, dependent on perceptions of Clinton’s performance in congressional hearings.
Webb: I continue to await, with most other sensible Republicans, the decline of Trump as the rest of the country comes to its senses. I fear it might be a long wait.
Utah Republicans, to their credit, have resisted the Trump mania. They want substance, not just hot air. They understand Trump is not a real conservative. Unless Bush starts to show some life, I expect Rubio to rise in Utah. The Republican disarray, both in Congress and the presidential race, is the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats.
Utah Democrats’ infatuation with Sanders shows Utah Democrats aren’t as sensible as Utah Republicans (of course, we already knew that). The Utah Democratic Party skews pretty far left (as also shown in the Salt Lake City mayoral race).
In 2012, Utah received greater than usual attention in the election because of favorite son Mitt Romney. Will we be relegated back to the electoral hinterlands or do other reasons exist for Utah to be significant in the election?
Pignanelli: Utah Democrats and Republicans will declare presidential preferences on March 22, 2016. This is three weeks after Super Tuesday and would normally be a moot exercise. However, with so many contestants likely to divide the pie, the remaining handful will view a late March victory as a valuable weapon for the spring caucasus/primaries.
Thus, Utah can expect a number of GOP contenders visiting in the snows of January and the rains of late March. If Sanders is still competitive by then, Utah will be a real battle battleground for Democrats.
Webb: We’ll watch our neighbor Nevada get a lot of attention, and we’ll see candidates come to Utah to raise money. Whether Utah is relevant beyond that will depend on what happens in the earlier primaries — whether a candidate in each party wraps up the nomination early. The Clinton nomination is inevitable. We’ll see how long Sanders wants to hang around. The GOP nomination, on the other hand, could be in play for a long time. But forget Romney stepping in at the last minute to save the party. Ain’t going to happen.
The Salt Lake City poll released last week confirms Jackie Biskupski still leads Mayor Ralph Becker. Is this a surprise?
Pignanelli: The mayor's race is an important election, and not just for who will be residing in City Hall next year. The successful and losing strategies for “all mail” balloting in Utah will be clarified. More importantly, the outcome will set the standard for the upcoming 2016 elections as to traditional media and the evolving dynamics of campaigning. A Becker loss demonstrates bombardment with television commercials no longer moves voters. Utah is trending with other parts of the country that social media, smart messaging and a focus on basic retail politics deliver results — explaining a Biskupski victory and the Trump phenomenon.
Webb: Becker is famous for building a strong grass-roots campaign infrastructure and campaigning aggressively door-to-door. But Becker was caught off-guard and unprepared by Biskupski’s strong primary election showing and he’s struggled to recover. TV advertising can provide exposure and build name ID, but it’s no longer enough to get people to vote.
Mail-in ballots make the election less predictable, so it’s hard to guess what will happen in the final week. Becker does well among males and more moderate voters, but unless they vote in high numbers at the end, Biskupski is looking strong.