Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: GOP Convention, Chaffetz's future and the PLI

The political scene this week will be hotter than the weather. Here’s what we’re watching.

The Republican National Convention will soak up all political oxygen. Will the convention help Utah Republicans accept Donald Trump as their presidential nominee?

Pignanelli: “I stayed up last night and watched the Republican Convention all night long. I'm not interested in politics. If you watch them and listen to them you can find out why.” — Casey Stengel

This could be a convention like no other. The world’s loudest salesman will ensure HIS show is entertaining and interesting. Unless he goes off script and shouts something stupid (don’t bet against it), Trump will get the historic bump in the polls after a nominating convention.

But Trump is Trump. He cannot help himself. He will say or do something to erase any gains from the convention. So Utahns will remain suspicious of Trump into the fall.

Webb: Clearly, part of Republican Trump angst is worry that he can’t beat Hillary Clinton. But recent polls show him very close (due, in part, to Clinton’s email/classified documents scandal). If Trump has a good convention, gets a convention bump and shows he can defeat Clinton, more Republicans will become believers. If he becomes responsible and reasonable and stops saying and doing idiotic things, Republicans might even get comfortable with him.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz has been on a roll lately, winning big in the primary election, unveiling major bipartisan conservation legislation for the Wasatch mountains, chairing a hearing grilling FBI Director James Comey, and starring in TV interviews. What’s in the congressman’s future?

Pignanelli: Even for a congressman with a long string of successes, this month was uniquely spectacular for Chaffetz. He provided the road map of how Republicans can avoid the Trump dilemma and take advantage of Clinton's email controversy. Further, his Mountain Accord legislation reflects that many Democratic members of Congress like Chaffetz and will work with him.

Another victory for Chaffetz last week was a lightly publicized, but incredible, effort to benefit millions of Americans.

Community banks are the foundation of the national economy as small businesses and families rely on them for their credit needs. Further, Utah is the fourth-largest center of financial services in America, mostly because of the industrial banks (whom I am honored to represent). Our state receives immense benefits through jobs and huge charitable contributions. But all this is in jeopardy because federal regulators are strangling state-chartered banks. Washington bigwigs have ignored or mocked pleas for help — until last week.

Chaffetz hauled the bureaucrats before his committee to be grilled by Republicans (and some Democrats) for their recalcitrance. Promises of reform were grudgingly made.

With such laurels, Chaffetz could pursue House leadership, the U.S. Senate in 2018 or the governor’s mansion in 2020.

Webb: Chaffetz can keep his House seat as long as he desires and can likely move up in congressional leadership. But he’s also ambitious. Being one of 535 members of Congress in gridlocked, dysfunctional Washington can get really old. Good leaders want to actually solve problems and make progress, not just spin their wheels. So the governorship in 2020 looks enticing.

However, Chaffetz would have tough competition in that race, as a lot of other attractive Republicans will be going for it. And Utahns vote somewhat differently for governors than for members of Congress. For Congress they want a firebrand who will go to Washington and battle the evil liberals. It’s OK to be ideological and partisan. For a governor they want a fatherly figure who can bring people together and is more of a practical problem-solver than an ideological purist. The business community wants someone it is very comfortable with.

Can Chaffetz make that transition? Does “Governor Chaffetz” have a nice, comfortable, soothing sound to it?

Last week was a big week for public lands in Utah, as Congressman Rob Bishop was scheduled to unveil his massive Public Lands Initiative (PLI) legislation. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell also visited Utah, sparking speculation about a Bears Ears national monument. Does Bishop’s legislation have a chance to pass, or will President Barack Obama create another national monument in Utah? 

Pignanelli: Washington insiders are telling me that Bishop's bill may stall monument designation. But the ever-changing dynamics of the presidential election will also influence this issue.

Webb: If Democrats and environmentalists are honest, they will admit that they will get a lot more of Utah’s beautiful land protected via Bishop’s PLI legislation than from a mere Bears Ears designation. Bishop’s bill spans multiple counties across the eastern portion of the state, not just the small Bears Ears area. He has made numerous concessions to conservation groups and has tried to accommodate all stakeholders. It is true compromise, collaborative legislation.

A national-monument designation will signal the utter failure of the Obama administration to work with mainstream Utah leaders. It will dramatically exacerbate federal/state tensions and distrust and will encourage civil disobedience. It will further propel the Legislature to try to take over most federal land. It will mean more bickering, more anger, more cynicism, more suspicion.

Bishop’s PLI is vastly superior to a monument designation and it should pass.