Nine months out from a possible GOP gubernatorial primary election for Utah governor and GOP Gary Herbert is doing just fine among Republican voters, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

With three-fourths (74 percent) of the support of Republicans, one may think Herbert is unworried.

But he’s being challenged by Overstock.com chairman Jonathan Johnson – who has money and time on his side.

A new poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds that Herbert, who is running his third campaign for governor next year, has 59 percent support for the GOP nomination among all Utahns.

Johnson has 15 percent support to be the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee, 3 percent mentioned someone else, and 23 percent don’t know.

 

As UtahPolicy readers know, the Utah state GOP is challenging SB54 in federal court – the compromise law that says a Qualified Political Party will hold open party primaries.

The state GOP has made internal rule changes to become a Qualified Political Party next year.

So unless SB54 is struck down or modified by a federal judge, then registered Republicans AND political independents can vote in the June 2016 GOP primary – where it’s likely Herbert will face Johnson since both men have the option under SB54 of gathering 28,000 voter signatures and going directly to the primary ballot.

Accordingly, it doesn’t really matter – as far as the GOP nomination for governor – what Utah Democrats think about the race, they won’t be able to vote in the GOP primary next year.

But political independents may be able to vote in that primary – depending on the judge’s ruling.

Jones finds:

  • Herbert has the support of 74 percent of Utah Republicans.
  • Johnson has 11 percent GOP support.
  • 0 percent mentioned someone else.
  • And 14 percent of Republicans don’t know whom they support in the GOP governor’s race.
  • 54 percent of political independents support Herbert, 16 percent like Johnson, 3 percent mentioned someone else for the GOP nomination, and 27 percent didn’t know.

 

Johnson officially declared his candidacy last week and has challenged Herbert to a series of debates starting in October.

It’s unlikely Herbert will agree to any such debates so early on – especially since he holds a significant lead over Johnson today.

A poll last month by Jones finds Herbert is well-liked by most Utahns, and Johnson is basically unknown.

So any early debates will only serve to give Johnson name I.D. and a platform to criticize the Herbert administration.

Last month’s poll found Herbert is a bit vulnerable among those Utahns who classify themselves as “very conservative” politically.

But in this month’s head-to-head survey the “very conservative” are still very much with Herbert:

  • 70 percent of the “very conservative” support Herbert.
  • 13 percent favor Johnson.
  • 1 percent mentioned someone else.
  • And 16 percent didn’t know.

From his comments and criticisms of Herbert to date, it appears Johnson will approach Herbert from the right of the political spectrum – emphasizing his management skills at Overstock.com, opposition to Common Core education standards and the state adopting any Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare.

If that is Johnson’s tactic, Jones’ new poll shows he has a lot of work to do.

For even among those who classified themselves as members of the Tea Party – a generally conservative movement distrustful of any government and politicians/officeholders – Herbert does much better than Johnson.

Among Tea Partiers Jones finds:

  • 60 percent support Herbert.
  • 19 percent are with Johnson.
  • 1 percent mentioned someone else.
  • And 20 percent didn’t know.

For transparency sake, it should be known Overstock.com is a sponsor of UtahPolicy. (Its logo and link appear on the UtahPolicy homepage.)

But UtahPolicy does not endorse candidates, and publisher LaVarr Webb says Herbert, Johnson, and all candidates will be treated equitably and equally by our publication.