Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Trump Won’t Help Utah Democrats in 2016

bernick mugThere’s been much speculation whether the unpopular Donald Trump will drag down other Republican candidates on the Utah ballot.

Especially in some close state House and Senate races, will Trump’s “tremendous problem” in Utah turn some of the 104 legislative seats to Democrats.

Beyond a few swing House seats in Salt Lake County – like the three where Democrats were “winners” on Election Night 2014 only to lose when all late-counted ballots were tallied — I say no:

Trump won’t matter much down ballot this year.


Because, like the rest of the nation, Utah has become even more partisan over the last decade.

Utahns seem less willing these days to consider split-ticket balloting, picking one party for president, say, and another for governor or the state house.

In the latest UtahPolicy survey by Dan Jones & Associates, Trump gets 37 percent support statewide, ahead of the presidential field but way short of a majority.

Still, if 37 percent of Utahns are willing to vote for this guy, after all of the problems he has with Mormons and other Beehive State Republicans, then they will vote for any other Republican on the ballot – no questions asked.

That means in close swing legislative races, Trump starts out with around 40 percent of the vote off the top.

The GOP candidate in those House or Senate races only needs to get 10 percent more of the vote to win the seat – because if you are so partisan that you are voting for Trump rather than an independent or Republican Evan McMullin (a native Utahn), then you likely are casting a GOP ballot in other races, as well.

 Meanwhile, the Democrat in that legislative race (with a base of 27 percent of the Hillary Clinton support statewide) needs to turn a lot more voters his or her way.

It makes one wonder, even in this really bad year for the GOP presidential nominee in Utah, can local Democrats not even catch a break?

I don’t see a Utah Senate race this year that could flip from Republican to Democratic.

There may be a few House seats change, but nothing outside of Salt Lake County, and only a few here.

Simply put, you will not see a year like 1986 – when Utah GOP leaders were asleep at the wheel and Democrats picked up an astounding 13 seats in the Utah House – even one seat in Cache County, where a Democrat had not won in a long time.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is 40 points up on his Democratic challenger, Mike Weinholtz. And Weinholtz is an articulate, attractive candidate if voters would take a serious look at him.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, considered vulnerable just 18 months ago, is drifting to a huge victory over Democrat Misty Snow, a transgendered store clerk.

Lee is hardly campaigning.

Yes, Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, is in a fight in the 4th Congressional District – a rematch with Democrat Doug Owens.

But if history is a guide here, Utah congressional candidates who came close to the incumbent in their first race fell well off in their rematch challenge two years later.

I see Utah Democrats down and out again.

What else is new?