Saturday both state Republicans and Democrats will hold their nominating convention.
And so it is time for the famous (many would say infamous) prediction column by yours truly – Bob Bernick.
Now, I always start such predictions with the HUGE caveat: No one votes one way or the other because of some column written by some know-it-all.
Predictions don’t cause outcomes.
They are just predictions. Yours is as good as mine, except maybe you haven’t been watching and writing about Utah politics for 30 years.
Still, people can really get upset over such predictions.
In early 2008 I wrote a column for the Deseret News in which I predicted that John McCain wouldn’t pick Mitt Romney as his vice presidential running mate.
I listed several well-reasoned (I believed) points.
People went nuts.
I got all kinds of hate letters to the editor and emails. Why? Because Utahns really like Mitt Romney and they didn’t like me saying McCain wouldn’t pick him.
Well, McCain DIDN’T pick him.
Did all those folks forgive me for being right?
Nope, they still hated what I wrote.
I said last year that U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz wouldn’t challenge U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch this year for the GOP Senate nomination.
Everyone was saying Chaffetz’ entry was a done deal. The Salt Lake Tribune even ran a story quoting unnamed close sources to Chaffetz saying he was getting in the race.
Chaffetz didn’t get in the race, and he’s probably glad now he didn’t, considering how well Hatch and his campaign manager Dave Hansen did in recruiting pro-Hatch state delegates.
But, believe me, I’ve been wrong in my political predictions as often as I’ve been right.
And with that, here are my pre-convention predictions. (Yeah, some are pretty obvious, but that’s life.)
-- Hatch will not 60 percent the GOP state convention Saturday in the South Towne Center.
He’ll get close. But he will fall just short.
And he will then be in a closed Republican primary with former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
Hatch’s campaign has been releasing delegate polls about every week showing him at between 61 to 63 percent support among the 4,000 delegates.
60 percent and above in any round of voting gives Hatch the nomination outright and he avoids a primary.
Why don’t I think Hatch will make it?
The big reason is the same reason that Hatch is getting so close to the nomination – the different delegate field of 2012.
The big turnout at the March 15 GOP precinct caucuses – double the turnout in 2010 – lead to more moderate Utahns getting involved in intra-party politics and more moderate Utahns being chosen as state delegates.
You don’t have the angry, Tea Party-like delegates of 2010, when at the state convention Hatch’s partner, Sen. Bob Bennett, was voted out of office by finishing third.
More moderate 2012 delegates are more willing to vote for Hatch in Saturday’s convention.
But, those same moderates are also more willing to truly represent their Republican precinct neighbors and friends.
In all the interviews I’ve had with a variety of top GOP candidates this spring, all say how wonderful the delegates are, how they want to be educated and want to be fair.
That’s great. Yes, candidates who face delegates Saturday are not going to say critical things about them – like “Wow, these delegates don’t know anything; are we in trouble.”
They are going to praise the delegates, of course.
But, still, I’m hearing that the delegates really do want to make the right decisions and represent their Republican caucuses and neighbors.
So, I reason, if the final vote in the U.S. Senate race has Hatch close to 60 percent, but not over 60 percent, then I’m guessing enough of those delegates will wonder: “Should I vote to put Hatch over the 60 percent level and take away from my precinct Republicans the chance to vote for the senator or for Liljenquist in a primary? Or should I vote for Liljenquist and put this race before my GOP neighbors and friends in the June 26 GOP ballot?”
In that answer could well hang Liljenquist’s chances.
Now, Hatch’s folks would quickly argue “Vote for Hatch” and save the senator from a bruising GOP primary, and its financial cost, when, it’s most likely, Hatch would win the primary anyway.
But the comeback is just as reasonable: Hatch has got like $8 million for this race. The Democrats won’t win in any case (Utah has not elected a Democratic U.S. senator since 1970). And so there is no real harm in going to a primary.
Anyway, that’s my thinking – Hatch gets close but doesn’t win the convention.
-- I do think, however, that GOP Gov. Gary Herbert does get 60 percent in the convention and wins the nomination Saturday.
Why the difference?
Liljenquist gets above 20 percent in the delegate polls. Herbert’s closest Republican is way down around 10 percent.
Going from 10 percent up to 40 percent (to get into a primary) is too great a jump in convention for any Herbert challenger, I’m guessing.
-- There will be a GOP primary in the crowded 2nd Congressional District – with 11 candidates no one can get that 60 percent super-majority. I’m saying it will be newcomer Chris Stewart against former state House speaker Dave Clark in the primary.
-- There will also be a primary in the 4th Congressional District. Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love will get in with former state Rep. Carl Wimmer.
Wimmer may well come out ahead in the convention, but not reach 60 percent.
An upset would put Love ahead of Wimmer among the delegates.
-- Switching sides, I think there will be a U.S. Senate primary between Scott Howell and Pete Ashdown in the state Democratic convention, as well.
Remember this – Utah primary voters have a history of giving the primary election not to the top vote-getter in the party convention, but the second-place convention finisher.
I could give you all kinds of examples of this: Joe Cannon came out of the 1992 GOP convention ahead of Bob Bennett, Bennett won the primary and three general elections.
Richard Eyre came out of the 1992 GOP convention ahead of Mike Leavitt, Leavitt won the primary and three gubernatorial elections.
Tim Bridgewater came out of two 2nd Congressional District convention fights ahead of John Swallow, Swallow won the GOP primaries.
And unlucky Bridgewater came out ahead of Mike Lee in the 2008 GOP Convention in the U.S. Senate race, but lost the primary to Lee, who went on to easily win Bennett’s former Senate seat in the general election.
So, who finishes first and who is second in any convention match-ups resulting from Saturday’s delegate votes doesn’t mean much in the June primary balloting.
Now, watch all my predictions for Saturday’s GOP and Democratic conventions be wrong.
And what does that mean? Nothing, but a few electronic ink blots on the UtahPolicy web site.
Anyway, to the delegates and candidates I say enjoy your day in the sun Saturday, even if you are indoors.
And thanks for being an important part of Utah politics in 2012.