A new Utah Foundation study of the top issues of 2012 election and how those compare with the opinions of the gubernatorial candidates is an interesting look at real-world politics – if you read between the lines.
You can see the study and look at the great comparison charts here.
The comparisons are made via a Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted of citizens by the Utah Foundation and questionnaires filled out by all but one of the gubernatorial candidates.
First, as is to be expected, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert thinks things are going great in Utah.
As the incumbent who, rightly or wrongly, is held responsible for things in Utah, if Herbert thought things were crappy why should we vote for him again?
Secondly, many of the gubernatorial candidates ranked issues as of greater concern than did Utah voters in general or Republican or Democratic voters specifically.
One can say that the candidates just feel more strongly about issues than do regular Utahns, which also makes sense.
Among all the candidates, former state Rep. Morgan Philpot seems the most serious – he listed nearly all of the 19 issue alternatives as very important.
Interesting enough, Philpot, who barely lost to U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, in the 2010 2nd Congressional District race, said partisan politics and state liquor laws were less important than the other issues asked by the Utah Foundation.
In fact, Utah Democrats listed partisan politics as the second most important issue of the 2012 election.
The GOP gubernatorial candidates didn’t give partisan politics a second thought, however.
Why would they? As the strong majority party in Utah, GOP officeholders and candidates would see little or nothing wrong with Republican Party dominance or power brokering.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke listed jobs and the economy, K-12 education and partisan politics as the three top issues this year.
Herbert listed as most important nine issues, including jobs, K-12 education and energy.
The GOP gubernatorial candidates (along with Herbert) didn’t put healthcare at the top of their important issues.
Neither did Utah Republicans. But interestingly enough, neither did Utah Democrats. In fact, there wasn’t much difference by political party in ranking healthcare.
Considering how important healthcare is in the U.S presidential race, the absence of it on the state level is odd.
You’ll see from the charts that Herbert is not greatly out of line with his GOP base on the issues, just as Cooke is not greatly out of line with his Democratic voters.
(The exception, again, is that Herbert and Cooke rank several issues as more important to them than those issues are to their party voters.)
Cooke, a retired army general, also didn’t take much interest in gay rights.
Maybe that’s his personal experience – in the middle of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and such – maybe that’s smart general election politicking.
Cooke goes directly to the general election, no other Democrat filed against him within the Utah Democratic Party.
Democratic voters, however, put gay rights in their top 10 issues in 2012.
Republicans don’t, ranking gay rights low on their issues of concern.
Cooke doesn’t have to worry about his Democratic base on that issue, since he’s already the party nominee. However, he doesn’t want to alienate LGBT Democrats since they are a big part of any Democratic candidate’s fundraising base.
Finally, the GOP-dominated Utah Legislature is really stuck on states’ rights – and has been for several years.
Republican lawmakers this year passed HB148 – and Herbert signed it – which gives the federal government until the end of 2014 to return 22 million acres of federal lands to state control. (Don’t hold your breathe on this one.)
But Utah voters in general and even GOP voters don’t care much about this public lands fight, the Utah Foundation study shows.
How much any of this will mean in the internal GOP gubernatorial fight – first taken up in the April 21 state Republican Party Convention and then, perhaps, in a June 26 closed party primary -- and how much in the November general election, remains to be seen.
But the Foundation’s work should be praised, for it will keep top candidates honest in how they formulate their campaigns.
And it lets Utahns know if the candidates for top office are way off base in some of their campaign issues.