Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: A look at the GOP convention from a Utah perspective

Published: Sunday, Sept. 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Webb: Republicans win the vast majority of Utah races anyway, even without the once-in-a-lifetime, historic occasion of a Mormon running for president. Even in a normal election year, given the electoral math, Democrats need divine intervention to win a statewide race (pray, Scott Howell and Peter Cooke, pray). But the really tough thing for Democrats this year is that the two big races where the party has strong candidates and should have a chance of winning are also seriously endangered with Romney at the top of the ticket. Democrat Ben McAdams will have to run an almost perfect race against Republican Mark Crockett to become Salt Lake County mayor. And Rep. Jim Matheson will need to run the best race of his career to defeat Love in the 4th Congressional District.

What's up with Utah's other favorite son, Jon Huntsman Jr.? Was it shrewd politics or political death to avoid the convention and brag about it?

Pignanelli: The Obama campaign worried about facing Huntsman in a general election — for good reasons. If he was the nominee, the current discussion would be about his huge coattails. Traditional Republicans are grumbling about Huntsman, which reveals he is onto something. Most conservatives under the age of 40 are fiscal hawks but social libertarians. Huntsman is a natural leader of this movement — whether in the GOP or a third-party.

Webb: Huntsman clearly is still watching and waiting for the right political opportunity, but little chance exists for him to emerge in the current Republican Party. Ideologically, he is not on the same planet as current GOP leaders and foot soldiers. For Huntsman to be viable, voters must become a lot more disgusted with both parties than they are today. But if gridlock, hyper-partisanship and rampant political dysfunction continue into the next presidential term, citizens may be ready to turn to a centrist, either a moderate Republican or Democrat, or a third-party candidate.

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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