Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Unpopular politicians and Clinton's chances in Utah

Utah first responders recently staged an earthquake preparedness exercise. It was very timely, as the political ground shifted across the country when Donald Trump claimed the title of "presumptive" GOP nominee, having dispatched 17 competitors. We review the aftershocks.

Trump and Hillary Clinton, likely nominees for the 2016 general election, are arguably the two most unpopular major politicians in the country. How did we get here? Is Utah different?

Pignanelli: "Trump supporters are the only group of voters in this nation's history who have been viciously and consistently maligned … by both political parties.” — Oleg Atbashian

Political experts, pundits and hacks are entrepreneurial — and shameless. We are aggressively developing a new industry explaining the Trump phenomenon while ignoring our earlier predictions on his fate. (If we only dedicated such energies to curing cancer.)

There are many schools of thought. Some believe the media gave too much attention to the billionaire and his Twitter expertise. Others claim Republican Party leaders were too timid and late in stopping him. The predominant theory is many Americans are angry and have lost confidence with government and society. The working class is disgruntled with “no drama Obama” and a GOP Washington, D.C., elite who seem clueless. Trump has tapped into their emotional needs, desires and frustrations.

But the Donald performed poorly in Utah, proving again Utah is different (and better).

Airtime on television rarely impacts Utahns (if it did, more would drink beer) Despite the internal tensions over SB54, the Utah Republican Party is not dysfunctional. While Utahns have always maintained an uneasy tension with the Feds, a majority possess a healthy respect for religious institutions and local government. Most importantly, our economy is buzzing along. Utah is not fertile ground for Trumpism.

Webb: Populist uprisings such as we are witnessing are not uncommon in history (some South American countries have them regularly). But the charismatic strongmen chosen to lead the populace to the political promised land seldom deliver as hoped. I think the Trump groupies seeking a political savior will likewise be disappointed, either because Clinton thumps him in November or because he turns out to be a really terrible president.

However, I must admit I’ve been wrong about nearly everything this political year. I’m not expecting it, but it’s possible Trump will surprise me.

Most Utahns do not like Trump, so does Clinton have a chance of capturing the state in November?

Pignanelli: This could be fun. Because of the silly Electoral College, Utah is ignored in presidential elections. So let's hope this tossup lasts and we are viewed as a swing state. We will get all sorts of attention from the campaigns and national media. Otherwise, the only hope for Trump in Utah is his nominal affiliation with the GOP (that dislikes him in return).

Webb: Personally, whether I vote for Trump will depend on how he conducts himself over the next six months. If he can act presidential, if he can show he has a grasp of key policy issues and wants to execute realistic conservative solutions, if he can develop an intelligent approach to foreign policy, if he can show he won’t plunge us into depression or war in his first six months in office, then I would be inclined to support him over Clinton.

But I’m not there yet. He has been so offensive and so naïve or totally wrong on issues I care about, that it’s going to take some convincing. I’m not going to vote for a loose cannon buffoon who gets his news from the National Enquirer and repeats JFK assassination conspiracies.

Clinton is at least a known quantity. Some people who have worked with her in Washington believe she would govern like her husband did and work reasonably well with Congress (better than President Obama) to solve problems.

That said, I think Trump will win Utah.

What impact will the general election matchup have on the down-ballot races in Utah?

Pignanelli: At this point in time, no one (repeat: no one) knows how the Trump candidacy will affect other races. His support is such an unusual phenomenon it will take months of polling and micro-targeting to determine what they may do in other races. Shrewd candidates in both parties will conduct research and craft messages that cater to this angry crowd, who carry both legitimate and unreasonable reasons for their emotions.

Webb: Democrats are loving Trump as the GOP nominee, but I don’t think it will have a big impact in Utah. With the exception of Rep. Mia Love, Utah’s major candidates are all pretty safe. It’s a little trickier for Love because she may not love Trump, but she won’t want to alienate his supporters.

And the further down on the ballot, it’s pretty easy for candidates to just avoid the presidential election.