Bob Bernick’s notebook: Despite success of online conventions, there’s no substitute for the real thing

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Well, the state Republican and Democratic party’s conventions are over, and congrats to all the leaders who did such a fine job on making the virtual operations function so well.

It really was remarkable.

While some are saying all, or most, of the future county and state conventions should be held remotely — in a large part on how well these first attempts went — I don’t see that.

Delegate conventions are just too much fun for the participants to want to do it over three days of virtual voting. Delegates want to get in that convention hall and do some shouting; you want to corner the top candidates at their booths and ask some tough questions.

Assuming the GOP conventions can get the crazies from taking up one, or two, or three hours just arguing over the rules and agenda, and go back to the early conventions I used to cover back in the 1980s, then you can get the excitement and fun back in them again.

I remember the 1992 state GOP convention:

Governor candidate Richard Eyre had a trained baby elephant outside visiting the different candidate booths, and it peed in front of his GOP gubernatorial Mike Leavitt’s booth. Great stuff.

And then U.S. Senate candidate Joe Cannon had a surprise guest — “I’m Proud to be an American” singer Lee Greenwood appeared and set the convention on fire.

These were exciting events — and well run, too.

Maybe there could be a bifurcated convention — adopt the rules and agenda and resolutions and platform — all that infighting — online on Thursday or Friday by virtual voting and debate, and then just have the candidate speeches and voting on Saturday in-person.

And do away with the live speeches by non-candidates — we don’t need a rah-rah “federal report” by the U.S. senators and representatives. Put those online as well.

Ranked Choice Voting — also in Saturday’s conventions — is also a great advancement.

It’s relatively fast, and it cuts down on negative campaigning — for the most part.

Convention-only candidate Greg Hughes, running for governor, really took after Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox via mailings to delegates this year.

And Hughes still came out of the convention, finishing second to Cox.

Jon Huntsman and Thomas Wright succeeded in gathering 28,000 valid GOP voter signatures under SB54 and, thus, were not eliminated in the convention, but live to be on the June 30 ballot.

But the convention results last Saturday, once again, show that GOP state delegates are much more conservative than rank-and-file Republican voters.

Just one really fine example: Huntsman was eliminated in the second round of voting, getting just around 400 votes out of the 3,800+ delegates.

In the AG race — same delegates voting — John Swallow, who had to resign via very critical investigations over various alleged wrong-doing, in trying for a comeback got around 800 votes.

So Huntsman, one of the more popular governors over his five years in office and two big election wins, fared worse before the archconservative delegates than Swallow, who was charged with 12 felonies, but ultimately was found not guilty.

What the hell?!

Huntsman has around 33 percent support among rank-and-file GOP voters in 2News polling by Y2 Analytics, which translates into around 250,000 registered Republican voters support — behind Cox’s first-place polling numbers.

Yet the state GOP delegates vote Huntsman out of the running in the second round of Ranked Choice Voting.

Don’t try to tell me, or any other thinking Utahn, that the 3,800 delegates in any way reflect the average Utah Republican voters.

While the virtual GOP state convention this year was run very well, while it had great turnout among the delegates, the resulting delegate voting preferences clearly show the Republican delegate/convention process is critically flawed.

Thank goodness for SB54 — which may have its problems with too high a signature bar in statewide races, may need to be extended to give more time to collect signatures or may have some other problems that could be fixed by legislators working in good faith on behalf of the average Utah voter.

Without SB54, the second-most-favored GOP gubernatorial candidate would be out of the race.

The top two GOP candidates in the 1st Congressional race would be out of the race.

And U.S. Rep. John Curtis down in the 3rd District would never have even won the office back in 2017.

One man, one vote in picking Republican and Democratic primary nominees — that should be the Utah way.