The only time a political candidate can be sure he had a winning strategy is the morning after an election.
He certainly can't be sure in the months before, when his campaign strategy flaps in the public wind like so much dingy laundry, inviting comment from all on how it can be improved.Take Gov. Norm Bangerter's strategy. While some Democrats are suspiciously watching Bangerter to make sure he doesn't use Taxpayers for Utah to justify his tax increase, other Democrats would like to see him take a little more ownership for the increase.
Those Democrats suspect Bangerter may be trying to downplay his opposition to the initiatives in hopes of gaining as much support as possible from voters who favor them.
Recent polls show Utah voters favor two of the three initiatives by almost 2 to 1 margins.
"I think he (Bangerter) is trying to tell the initiative voters `I'm still in your camp,"' said Rob Jolley, campaign manager for Democratic challenger Ted Wilson. "I think Bangerter is against the initiatives, but he's afraid to get out in front on it."
Bangerter's staff originally planned a press conference in mid-July to denounce the initiatives. But the press conference was postponed, then canceled, fueling suspicion further.
"What was the point?" Bangerter's campaign manager Dave Buhler said, explaining why the press conference was scrapped. "Everyone knows he (Bangerter) is against the initiatives."
In Buhler's opinion, the most effective way to fight the initiatives is to let individual state departments comment one at a time about how tax cuts will affect what they do. That way, publicity will be sustained over several months. A press conference would be only a one-time event.
Bangerter has ordered each state agency to draft a budget showing what would happen if the initiatives passed. His staff appears anxious to quell the idea Bangerter is not committed to fight against the initiatives.
"We've been against them (the initiatives) from the start - two years ago," said Francine Giani, Bangerter's press secretary. "We're not going to make it the main campaign issue, even though it comes up 19 out of 20 times whenever he speaks somewhere."