While the former Utah Senate Minority Leader pushed Hatch on several key issues, he failed to mention one of his main campaign objections to the senior senator: That Hatch, at 78, is too old to serve another six years and could die in office.
Instead, Howell went to great lengths to say that Hatch shouldn’t demonize all Democrats, has failed to stop federal deficits, can’t work in a bipartisan manner any more, and is part of the problem in Congress, not a solution.
And, I must add, Howell several times gave examples of how he is a faithful member of the LDS Church.
In three decades of watching political debates in Utah, I can’t remember a time where a candidate so obviously talked about his Mormon status.
I can only imagine that internal polling shows Howell that most voters don’t know he’s a faithful a Mormon.
Well, he certainly got that message across in Wednesday morning’s debate, live-streamed on www.voteutah.org and to be broadcast on KUED and KBYU at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Perhaps because the program was taped in the studios of KBYU that Howell just “felt the spirit.”
But he certainly did.
At different times Howell:
-- Quoted from a book he was reading that very morning, which appeared to be the Book of Mormon.
-- Quoted from a conference speech from Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks (former president of BYU) about taking care of children.
-- Recalled that after only three months in the mission field, as a young man Howell’s mission president made him the “senior” missionary. When he asked why, the mission president told Howell that seniority wasn’t about age or experience or time (like it is in Congress), but was about “creativity and new leadership.”
-- Said it would be better to send LDS missionaries to Afghanistan than to waste $300 million a day fighting a fruitless war there.
Howell did call Hatch to task over a number of issues.
And the challenger clearly supported Obamacare, adding that it is better to amend it rather than repeal it and start all over again.
Howell said it’s time for new leadership – “bold and brassy” leadership that he’ll bring, not the same old stuff of Hatch.
At one point Howell told Hatch that he might as well stop pushing one idea “because that dog won’t hunt; he’s gone.”
But Hatch didn’t get flustered.
While 78, he had no problem recalling specific votes and battles he’s fought over the last 36 years in the U.S. Senate.
Hatch became energized when asked to defend putting two wars on credit cards, saying he won’t stand by America being attacked and 3,000 Americans killed, like 9-11.
Hatch said anyone who wouldn’t do the same didn’t deserve to sit in the U.S. Senate.
When Howell criticized Hatch for backing away from the Dream Act – saying Hatch gave up on it only to curry right wing votes in the Utah Republican Convention and the primary – Hatch said he was proud to originally sponsor the act, but that he had to oppose it after “liberal” Democrats changed the language.
Maybe a dozen times Hatch mentioned Mitt Romney and how Hatch needed to be re-elected so he could support “President Romney” as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Of course, Republicans have to win the majority in the Senate for Hatch to get that top job – and he may be challenged for the chairmanship by other GOP senators, as well.
Hatch mentioned Romney so much that Howell said at one point, “I don’t know who I’m running against” – Hatch or Romney.
“Both,” interjected Hatch.
And that’s really the crux of it.
Howell, underfunded and not well known by Utahns, really is running against both Romney and Hatch this year.
And that’s why one televised debate, no matter how well Howell may have done, likely won’t get it done.
The pair will meet again on KSL Radio’s Doug Wright Show at 9 a.m. Oct. 26, the last debate (only two) that Hatch agreed to have with Howell.