Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Is tea party influence waning or growing in Utah's elections?

Published: Sunday, July 17 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

A survey indicated that Tea Party influence is waning in Utah, at least among independent voters. Is this true?

Pignanelli: National and local surveys indicate that voter regard for the tea party is dropping. But this is a moot point in Utah. Tea party activists and other ultra conservatives can control the 2012 elections if they dominate the precinct caucuses next March 2012 — as they did in 2010.

Webb: Where it really matters (the nomination of Republican candidates), the tea party is as strong as ever and probably getting stronger. It's looking more likely that the outcome of the debt-limit negotiations in Washington could dramatically increase the divide between pragmatic, mainstream Republicans, and ideological, far-right Republicans. If Republicans don't get enormous budget cuts out of these negotiations, the passions of the far-right will be further inflamed and they'll take it out on party moderates. Meanwhile, as Republicans are engaged in vicious civil wars and circular firing squads, Democrats will be building coalitions that can win general elections.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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