Utah Genius Panel Weighs in on Conventions & Election Positioning

blue 01This week’s question: With the tumultuous national conventions over, and two flawed candidates nominated, which party is best positioned to win the White House?

Patricia Jones, CEO, Women’s Leadership Institute; former state senator. I believe the Democrats had the better convention, and the party will be unified going into the final campaign stretch. I feel that Hillary Clinton was pressured to move to the left at the convention.  I think she can be her true self once elected, however, because she really is quite conservative on many issues.   I would not characterize her as a flawed candidate. She’s superbly qualified for the job, and I hope she is elected, as the alternative is not acceptable.

Mike Mower, longtime political participant. I’ve studied presidential campaigns all of my life.  I’ve attended five national conventions.  I’ve worked on a lot of campaigns at all levels.  When it comes to forecasting which party is best positioned to with the White House, this year I have to say, I HAVE NO IDEA.  I’m still surprised that the GOP nominated who we did and that an avowed Socialist, Bernie Sanders, did so well in the run-up to the Democratic Nomination.  2016 is an election year unlike any other.  Stay tuned.  It isn’t over yet.  

Alan Matheson, executive director, Utah Department of Environmental Quality; former director of Envision Utah. I am politically right-of-center but unaffiliated with any party.  While I recognize political parties serve some purpose, party loyalty too often trumps independent thought or national interest.  Party conventions typically are pep rallies, lacking authenticity; infomercials broadcasting scripted messages to targeted demographics. They are a two-week summer vacation from reality and truth.  During this election cycle, I despair over the parties’ nominees.  With this perspective, I watched the conventions with no rooting interest.  

The Republican convention disappointed.  The ease with which the party faithful embraced a Trumpian platform materially different from long-time party principles was surprising.  The tone was negative, in stark contrast to the hopeful American exceptionalism historically embraced by the party.

The Democratic convention was much more effective but squandered an opportunity.  On Wednesday, especially with the President’s speech, the Democrats created some space for Republicans and Independents turned off by Trump to join the Clinton campaign.  Taking advantage of the vacuum left by the Republicans, they captured the themes of patriotism, character, values, family, and hope for a struggling middle class, On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton forfeited those gains.  In trying to appeal to disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters, she tacked to the far left.  The door that cracked open the previous night to those outside the Democratic party closed.  They are still looking for a place to land this year.

Peter Corroon, Utah Democratic Party chair, and former Salt Lake County mayor. The Democrats had a superior convention and are better organized and more supportive of their candidate — with some exceptions. 

Boyd Matheson, president, The Sutherland Institute; former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee. The circus tents from the eight days of infomercial-style conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia have been struck; the balloons popped, and the media has moved on to the next juicy political story.  And as is often the case, the people who really did the hard work and heavy lifting for these events, the people of Cleveland and Philadelphia, are left to clean up the mess and return to the real challenges facing their cities and citizens.

Both parties had some drama and a few good moments. The Democrats clearly put on a better production, with a little help from their Hollywood friends, (no disrespect to Republican Scott Baio of course.)  The Dems had stronger themes, better disciplined speakers and a more coherent progression. Hillary will likely get a similar, but temporary, bounce, as did Mr. Trump, and the race pivots to the fall.

Both parties spoke endlessly about unity.  As if saying unity over and over and over again would make it so.  It doesn’t – and that is the challenge for both parties.  When you actually have unity – you never have to shout it, proclaim it or declare it – because everyone can clearly see it.  I don’t see that happening for either party this cycle.

The Democrats are better organized, better funded and better prepared for the fall battle. However, with the two most disliked, and distrusted candidates in history unity in either party and the nation, is not likely.  So the test will be who can make the case for citizens to choose an issue they care about and make that their driving motivation to actually show up and vote in November. 

Larry V. Lunt, Brigadier General (ret), former state Republican chair; former state legislator. The thing that most surprised me about the conventions was the Democrats’ use, promotion, and response to non-gender restrooms at their convention.  Many were OK with this, but it seems that some women complained that the men did not shut the door to the stall or that they didn’t raise the toilet seat.  This is only a small taste of what can be expected from such a policy.   

Nolan Karras, former gubernatorial candidate, Utah House speaker, and current education reformer. Democrats…women will realize this is a historic time for them and they will vote for Hillary.  Minority voters have been driven off by the Republicans, and there are not enough angry white men to get Trump elected.

Todd Weiler. The media would have you believe that the democratic convention ended with peace, love and unity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Hillary was preparing to give the biggest speech of her night, delegates from California were using magic markers to change the convention-provided banners to say “Liar” instead of Hillary. 

At least one delegates had his credentials revoked by the DNC because he was spotted holding a sign protesting TPP. Many of the Bernie delegates packed up and left early. Their seats were given to people paid to clap for Hillary. 

The DNC also blocked news crews from filming some of the protests outside of the Wells Fargo Center. 

On Tuesday, almost a thousand delegates walked off the convention floor to protest Hillary’s nomination. 

There are mixed reviews of Hillary’s acceptance speech. It certainly wasn’t the best speech of the week. That distinction goes to Michelle Obama. President Obama’s speech was good, but he couldn’t resist referring to himself 119 times. I think the best reaction to Hillary’s speech was from Bill: he fell asleep. 

Dan Liljenquist, former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate. By any objective measure, both the Republican and Democrat conventions were disastrous for their respective parties.  Both conventions were plagued by controversy.  On the GOP side of the ledger, a contentious floor fight, Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech, and Cruz’ refusal to endorse, dominated headlines.  On the Democrat side of the ledger, the disgusting content of the hacked DNC emails, Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ humiliating resignation, and disgruntled Sanders supporters burning American flags threatened to derail the proceedings.  

Neither party looked good coming out of their respective conventions, but I suspect that the Democrats came out better off than Republicans (mostly because of speech at the Democrat convention by Khizr Kahn, the father of a Muslim US soldier who was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, that triggered a bitter public feud between Trump and Kahn after the convention).

I think the presidential race is a toss-up at this point.  100 days is a lifetime in presidential politics, and a variety of exogenous factors could impact the race.  The biggest wild-card being Trump himself.  One thing seems certain – in November, regardless of who wins, we will be electing the least-popular newly elected president in American history.