Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson didn't go to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta last month. He stayed home in Utah to campaign.
But Gov. Norm Bangerter will be at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans this week. Boy, will he be there. And a big part of his presence at the convention will be aimed at doing what Wilson was doing during his party's convention - campaigning."The governor is the leader of the Republican Party in Utah. He's the delegation chairman and he's proud of it," said Dave Buhler, Bangerter's campaign manager. Bangerter and Buhler both flew to New Orleans Saturday night, in time to make the social rounds on Sunday.
And both he and Bangerter will be busy - Bangerter out front, meeting with this dignitary, having his picture taken with that leading Republican. Buhler will be behind the scenes, organizing the meetings and contacting the media.
"We'll be meeting with Vice President (George) Bush. We don't have a time yet, but we've been assured a meeting with the vice president," said Buhler. He hopes part of the meeting will be open to the press, a great chance to have the governor photographed with the soon-to-be GOP presidential nominee. (Bangerter may well tell Bush his top picks for vice president - former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole or California Gov. George Deukmejian).
Bangerter will meet with current Cabinet officials and leading men and women who could be in the Bush cabinet, should he win in November. "The governor wants to point out Utah's concerns on a number of federal policies to the people who make those policies."
The governor also will meet with fellow Republican governors and more influential Republicans inside and out of government than you can shake a stick at.
Finally, on Wednesday night, as the national TV audience watches, it will be Bangerter who announces the Utah delegation's vote for Bush. (No surprises here, all 26 Utah delegates are pledged to Bush.)
It's all part of a plan to show the governor as a true-blue Republican, respected by national Republicans, a leader not only in Utah GOP circles but in national circles as well. Utah is 2-1 Republican, but Bangerter is having trouble holding traditional Republican votes.
"He'll be an active chairman of the delegation, " said Buhler. He added that Bangerter is staying in the same hotel as the rest of the delegation _ a slight dig at former Gov. Scott M. Matheson and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, who stayed in a more convenient hotel in Atlanta while the rest of Utah's Democrats stayed out in the boondocks.
"The governor will conduct the morning caucuses and will be a full participant, along with his wife, Colleen, on the convention floor."
Will the governor be available for press interviews? "Of course," smiled Buhler.
In fact, Buhler would love to have the governor in the newspapers and on TV every day of the convention, seen associating with locally and nationally respected Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Sen. Robert and Elizabeth Dole; Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y.; and Reagan administration officials. There's a good chance Buhler's dreams will come true, for GOP leaders will likely want to help a GOP governor struggling for re-election in a Republican state.
"I see a real contrast here," Buhler said. "Ted Wilson was in hiding during the Democratic convention. He didn't want any part of it. Ted waited until (Michael) Dukakis was leading in the polls, then he felt it safe to go to Denver (last weekend) to meet with him.
"Gov. Bangerter has no hesitancy in being seen with George Bush, he's proud of it, or with any other national Republican," Buhler said.
It certainly won't hurt the governor politically.
Polls taken for the Deseret News and KSL-TV show that Wilson, who leads Bangerter by 19 points, still has considerable support among Utah Republicans. In a July 29 poll, Jones found that 29 percent of those who said they're Republicans said they'd vote for Wilson if the election were held today.
Bangerter and Buhler's major effort this election is to bring those Republicans home. "We want to re-establish ties with Republicans" during the convention, said Buhler, and let everyone back home see it.