Republican Karl Snow may not be the only casualty in the bitter 3rd District race this week. GOP heavy-hitter Stephen M. Studdert is being blamed by some GOP leaders for Snow's defeat in what many consider the most Republican House district in America.
Studdert, Snow's campaign chairman, clearly has political ambitions of his own - he's often named as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 1992 - and he's taking steps now to ease the impact that Snow's defeat may have on him - even asking forgiveness from top GOP leaders.Studdert, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, is responsible for the now infamous "family ad" that ran in the Utah County Journal - a free, tabloid newspaper that is delivered to 68,000 Utah County homes - the Sunday before Tuesday's election.
The advertisement caused an uproar in the media. "It went over with the public like a burp in church," said Deseret News/KSL-TV pollster Dan Jones. Snow was so concerned about the ad he publicly apologized for it, saying he had no personal knowledge of the ad before it ran.
Studdert has not returned calls from the Deseret News. A receptionist at his Salt Lake office said Thursday she didn't know where he was or when she would hear from him.
It's impossible to say how much the ad harmed Snow. TV news accounts of the controversy ran Monday night, just before the election. Newspapers carried the story on Election Day. Traditional thinking says that except for catastrophic political events - like a candidate being arrested for a felony just before an election - campaign missteps take several days or even a week to sink into most voters' minds.
Two pollsters who conducted exit interviews of voters Tuesday say the ad alone probably didn't cost Snow the race, but it likely increased the size of Democrat Bill Orton's victory. Orton won by 21 percentage points in the heavily Republican district.
Still, among the party hierarchy the advertisement was vilified. And Studdert's good name suffered. "I was totally offended (by the ad)," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on election night. "I've seen a lot of stupid things in politics, but this ad was the stupidest thing I've ever seen."
After the Deseret News ran a story identifying Studdert as the man behind the advertisement, one GOP insider said Tuesday night: "Studdert is taking on a lot of heavy political water on this one. He's really being hurt."
Sources told the Deseret News that Studdert asked GOP State Chairman Richard Snelgrove last Friday if the party would pay for a weekend advertisement in the Journal. Snelgrove agreed to pick up the cost, but wanted to see the ad copy first. In the last-minute crush of campaigning, Snelgrove says he never saw the ad.
The full-page advertisement had a picture of Snow, his wife and six children, above a caption that read: "Karl Snow and his family." Next to the Snows' picture was a picture of Bill Orton, who is unmarried, alone. Under that it read: "Bill Orton and his family."
The ad said that Congress' actions affect families, and raised questions about Orton's ability to represent family values. The ad clearly insinuated that as a single man, Orton doesn't hold family values.
Studdert sent a letter to Snelgrove Wednesday. The Deseret News obtained a copy of the letter.
"A lot of finger pointing is going on today about the now famous newspaper ad in the 3rd Congressional District," Studdert wrote. "In a campaign lots of people make independent, sincere decisions. But with leadership comes accountability, and yes, the buck does stop here. . . . as in every campaign, mistakes may have been made. But whatever mistakes were made can be corrected, and whoever made them can be forgiven . . .
"When Republicans loose (sic) so badly in a Republican state, whether its (sic) for Congress or county commission, there is plenty of blame to go around. The party is deeply divided and the reasons for the losses by Karl Snow and others are numerous.
"Rather than sitting around pointing blame, what the Republican Party needs now is leadership. Let's congratulate Bill Orton, and let's listen to the voters: they are angry. . . . Let's listen - and hear - what they are saying."
Said Snelgrove: "This isn't the first time that well-meaning people made a mistake, got careless, late in the fourth quarter of a campaign. I don't personally believe the ad cost us the seat. This race started to disintegrate (for Republicans) at the state convention and went downhill from there as Republicans cannibalized each other."