Riding high on new performance approvals in Utah, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert lambasted former presidential advisor Stephen Bannon on Wednesday, after Bannon took after adopted Utah son Mitt Romney.
It’s a strange move for Bannon – a backer of troubled Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.
And it’s likely that the Moore/Bannon anti-Mormon onslaught will only hurt GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch – who stands with Trump in the president’s endorsement of the otherwise disgraced Moore.
In any case, the new UtahPolicy.com poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds that both Herbert and Romney lead the pack of Utah’s top officeholders when it comes to job approval ratings and general good feelings by Utahns.
Here are some numbers:
- 70 percent of Utahns approve of the performance of Herbert, who is in his 8th year in office.
- Only 24 percent disapprove of Herbert.
- And only 6 percent don’t have an opinion of him.
Romney, who basically saved Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympics by taking it over and cleaning up an IOC/SLOC money scandal, isn’t far behind:
- 69 percent approve of Romney, who is considering running for the Senate next year, whether or not Hatch seeks re-election.
- 22 percent disapprove of Romney, who now lives full-time in Utah.
- And 9 percent don’t know.
As UtahPolicy.com Managing Editor Bryan Schott wrote Wednesday, Romney’s patience is being tested by Hatch.
The 83-year-old senator promised in his 2012 re-election that he wouldn’t run again. And earlier this year, Hatch – although he was reconsidering his promise and might run again – said he would step aside if someone outstanding, like Romney, wished to run.
But Trump and some others are pushing Hatch to run again – as the president outlined in a Utah State Capitol speech last Monday.
Bannon was a main Trump advisor during the 2017 campaign and afterwards was the chief strategist in the White House – before Trump fired him after some bitter administration infighting.
Trump backed Republican Luther Strange in the Alabama GOP primary this year, and steered clear of formally endorsing Moore until this week.
Romney, on the other hand, tweeted that a Moore election would be a “stain” on the U.S. Senate and should be avoided.
Bannon, campaigning for Moore, then let loose Wednesday on Romney – saying he was a coward for not serving in the Vietnam War and instead going on an LDS mission.
Bannon had said that he would back any conservative who ran against Hatch – keeping up his criticism of incumbent GOP U.S. senators.
But Bannon has since seemed to move away from that stand – and clearly would be a Hatch backer if Romney decided to challenge Hatch next year.
However, that likely would be a losing endorsement for Hatch – after Bannon’s criticism of Romney who, the new poll shows, is much loved here.
Some of Jones’ internal numbers show:
- Romney, who was the unsuccessful 2012 GOP presidential nominee, is liked by 81 percent of Utah Republicans.
- Only 8 percent of Republicans disapprove of Romney’s performance.
- Even 50 percent of Utah Democrats like Romney, while 39 percent dislike him.
- Political independents approve of Romney, 61-26 percent.
Herbert, who has said he will not run again in 2020, gets slightly better numbers:
- Among Republicans, his approval rating is 88-8 percent.
- Democrats give Herbert, a sitting Republican officeholder, slightly lower numbers, 44-51 percent approval.
- While political independents like the governor, 62-33 percent.
Bannon’s attack on Mormons is, of course, a dead-ender in Utah – although it might play well in born-again Christian Alabama, where some hard-core Christians believe Mormonism is a cult, not a religion.
- Among “very active” Utah Mormons, Romney has an approval rating of 81-12 percent.
- Herbert’s approval rating among active Mormons is 85-11 percent.
UtahPolicy/Jones has not conducted a direct head-to-head, Hatch against Romney, previously because it was assumed (and reported) that Hatch would step aside and Romney would run in his stead.
But now that there is at least a possibility of a Hatch-Romney GOP primary in 2018, these “favorable” ratings in Jones’ new poll show some indications of popularity:
- Among all Utahns, Hatch’s favorable rating is split, 48-48 percent.
- As reported above, Romney’s is 69-22 percent.
- Among self-identified Republicans (only registered Republicans can vote in the party’s closed primary), Hatch is at 68-26 percent favorable.
- Romney is at 81-8 percent favorable.
Jones polled 600 adults from Nov. 16-21. The statewide survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.