Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Donald Trump and SB54

bernick mugDonald Trump is the national Republican Party’s presidential nominee for 2016.

Wow! Who would have thought this would have ever happened?

Not me, for sure.

Not most of the GOP voters in Utah, I guess – where Trump finished a distant third in March GOP caucus meetings.

And why did Trump move so quickly this last month to drive out this week both Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich?

I think there is a lesson to be learned in this national race.

And one Utah GOP leadership and delegates will – I’m sure – decline to accept.

It’s this:

The voters in the five northeastern states two weeks ago and in Indiana last Tuesday decided they didn’t like the “establishment” Republicans and party leaders telling them who would be the presidential nominee – to be chosen in a contested convention this July.

The GOP voters especially didn’t want their clear choice – Trump – to be denied the nomination in a national convention “rigged” by the party insiders – which include the various state delegates.

Does this sound familiar here in Utah?

Yep, UtahPolicy polling by Dan Jones & Associates finds that 57 percent of Utah Republicans LIKE the dual option SB54, which allows a candidate to gather signatures, bypass the caucus/delegate/convention route, and go directly to the party primary where party voters can decide the nominee.

Only 23 percent of Utah Republicans prefer the caucus/delegate/convention process, Jones finds.

So, I think there is a parallel: In recent GOP presidential primaries, the voters wanted to settle, at least as much as they could, on a single nominee.

And not send the contest to a national convention – where the vote-getting leader – Trump – could be denied the nomination.

Likewise, Utah Republicans don’t want caucus-selected delegates to decide whom the congressional, state and legislative GOP nominees are here in the Beehive State.

The Utah Republican voters believe they are smart enough themselves to make these basic decisions in a primary.

Hey, but don’t worry Utah Republicans.

Your party leaders aren’t going to listen to you.

Watch for the next anti-SB54 step: Local county and state party bosses refuse to accept the signature-gathering processes and candidates.

If a candidate has enough signatures to be certified by the Utah Elections Office to the primary ballot, but DIDN’T get at least 40 percent of the convention delegate votes, then the party leaders will OPPOSE those GOP candidates in the primary election.

This has not happened before in Utah politics.

Both the state GOP and the Utah County GOP are considering only recognizing candidates who got at least 40 percent of the vote in their respective conventions.

While some internal party rules may have to be changed, watch for both groups to officially endorse only the convention-approved candidates.

We could actually see local and state parties work AGAINST GOP candidates who got the required number of voter signatures, but either didn’t go to the convention at all or went but didn’t get at least 40 percent of the delegate vote.

Our polling shows most Utah Republicans like the signature-gathering option.

But the party leaders won’t listen to them.

It appears national GOP leaders – who opposed Trump, some vehemently opposed him – are going to accept the rank-and-file primary Republican voters’ decision.

Too bad the same can’t be said for Utah Republican Party leaders and SB54.