Well, we have a pretty good idea now why House Speaker Becky Lockhart is probably not going to run for Governor in 2016.
Sure, she would be facing a massive cash disadvantage if she were to try and oust Gov. Gary Herbert.
But that’s not it.
The latest UtahPolicy.com poll cornfirms what I had suspected for a while - Utahns simply don’t know who she is.
When we asked for impressions of the speaker, nearly 40% of Utahns told us they had never heard of her. Another 21% said they had no opinion about the Provo Republican
When you’re going to run for Governor, as Lockhart was clearly planning to do until last month when she shifted her focus toward becoming the state superintendent of public schools, the biggest thing you need is name recognition. After more than a decade on Capitol Hill, Lockhart doesn’t have any. And, that’s a huge problem.
Remember before his run in 2004, Fred Lampropoulos bought paid editorials on KSL radio that ran seemingly every single day. That was nothing more than an attempt to build name recognition. That didn’t work for him as he eventually lost his bid for the nomination to Jon Huntsman.
That could not have been cheap for Lampropolous. Lockhart does not have the personal wealth of Lampropoulos, so building name recognition that way is out of the question.
Lockhart was plotting her run in a pre-SB 54 world. Her strategy then was sound - throw red meat to the delegates, knock Herbert out at convention and maybe face a weaker Republican in a primary. But, now that there’s another path to the ballot, that’s out the window. If Lockhart were to get through convention, she would almost assuredly face Herbert in a primary where his overwhelming cash advantage and superior name-recognition would lead to her ultimate political demise.
Look at what happened between Sen. Orrin Hatch and Dan Liljenquist in 2012. Liljenquist was banking on knocking Hatch out of the race at convention. When he didn’t, it was game over. Hatch had more money and much better name recognition. Liljenquist barely got more than ⅓ of the vote in the primary and Hatch won going away.
What makes you think things would be any different for Lockhart against Herbert?
It’s hard enough to depose a sitting governor, but when nobody outside of hard-core political news consumers know who you are, it’s almost impossible.
Couple that with the fact that the last time Utah denied a sitting governor a second full-term in office was 1924 when Democrat George Dern ousted Republican Charles Maybe, and you’ve got a huge hill to climb.
Even members of her own party really have no idea who Lockhart is 41% of Republicans in our poll said they had never heard of her, while 21% said they had no opinion. Weirdly, Democrats are much more aware of Lockhart, with just 24% telling us they had never heard of her. 41% of independents also said they were unaware who she is.
Lockhart’s no dummy. She probably had at least some sort of inkling about these numbers and her low name recognition.
Running for a big-time, statewide office in Utah is just like the bar in Cheers, you wanna be where everybody knows your name.