A potpourri of political events require comment this week.
** Democrat Ted Wilson and Republican Gov. Norm Bangerter actually made a joint appearance and agreed on something. They held a press conference and taped a TV commercial saying the three tax-cutting initiatives should be defeated by voters in November.The two, still locked in a tough race with each other and independent Merrill Cook for the governor's seat, have settled into an almost friendly adversary relationship.
Bangerter, trailing in the polls, spent much of the summer attacking Wilson. The governor complained that Wilson was afraid to debate him. And when the early debates were held, Bangerter said Wilson was all fluff and hype, sometimes even full of baloney.
Those debates turned a bit bitter.
But the bad feelings seemed to have passed. Wilson has accepted more debates and joint appearances than he earlier said he would. Sometimes, the trio debate two times a day. They are meeting at least two-to-three times a week.
And the rhetoric has settled down. Names are still called, but the unpleasantness is missing. Bangerter and Wilson often share private jokes before, after, sometimes even during, the debates.
While they hit on each other, both seem to take extra pleasure in tweaking Cook's nose over the tax initiatives or Cook's plans to cut state government should the initiatives pass. Wilson even confided in aides that maybe he should let up on Cook. "But he's such an easy target, I can't resist taking shots at him," Wilson said.
** With four and a half weeks to go before the election, the next round of public opinion polls are critical to Bangerter. In the last Dan Jones & Associates poll taken for the Deseret News and KSL-TV, he had closed within 13 points of Wilson.
If the next poll, to be published in the Sunday Deseret News, shows Bangerter hasn't continued that forward movement, or if the governor actually slips back to a 15-point or 20-point deficit, then it will be very difficult for him to take away enough Wilson voters to win.
Four years ago, Jones' final three polls before the election showed Bangerter ahead of Wayne Owens, his Democratic challenger, by 12 points, 10 points and 12 points, respectively. On election night, after Bangerter had won, both men said they knew two weeks before the election who would win and who would lose.
Still, both Bangerter and Owens campaigned hard the final two weeks, never letting on what they knew would happen.
Should the next poll show Bangerter's momentum has stalled, watch for any change in the governor's campaign tactics. He may become more critical of Cook and the tax initiatives. After all, it was Cook and the tax protesters who embarrassed Bangerter at the Utah State Republican Convention (remember what happened - GOP delegates who supported Cook turned the convention upside down by trying to get Cook nominated as a Republican). Cook and the tax protesters have been a thorn in Bangerter's side for two years. He may want to take a little revenge if it becomes clear the race is decided.
** Finally, Democrats in the Utah House made a real difference this week in the thrift settlement, and maybe taught the Republican leadership a lesson.
Democrats are still in the minority. But they have enough members to block any bill that requires a two-thirds majority for approval. While the thrift settlement bill only needed a majority vote, a technical bill that had to precede the thrift bill did need two-thirds vote.
When the Republican leadership in the House and Senate decided to push their own bill, a bill the Democrats weren't even consulted on, the Democrats marshaled their forces and brought the special session to a halt. A final compromise was reached, but only after the GOP leadership was brought down a peg or two. If the Democrats pick up a few more seats in November's election, the next Legislature may see even more partisan fights, and bipartisan agreements.