Political scientist and pollster Dan Jones thinks reasons why Utah is the "reddest" state include the Democratic Party's inability to articulate an exit strategy for the war in Iraq.

To simply set a date by which American troops should get out of that country "doesn't work," Jones said in a talk Sunday to the congregation of the First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East. Jones, whose Dan Jones & Associates firm conducts surveys for the Deseret Morning News, spoke as part of the Unitarians' Summer Forum series.

The topic of his speech was "Why Is Utah the Reddest State? And So What?"

Commenting on Iraq, Jones said he believes civil war will complicate the scene there. Syria and Iran are "involved up to their necks" in the unrest, he believes.

Other reasons why Republicans dominate Utah politics include these, Jones said in his speech and an interview afterward:

• The inability of the state's Democrats and independents "to relate with a Democrat at the national level." The party's nominee for president in 1992, Bill Clinton, racked up the lowest vote in Utah. "That could be the same with Hillary" Clinton should she be nominated, he said.

• Democrats have no clear policy on immigration.

• The inability to pass a minimum wage boost, which means no increase in pay "for the little guy." Democrats should have been able to muster the votes in Congress for an increase, he said, although they may have had to do some compromising with Republicans about other issues in order to swing some GOP votes their way.

• Democrats are labeled as pro-choice and in favor of same-sex marriage, which goes against the grain of many Utahns.

• Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "feel that Democrat policies are counter to church positions."

Utah wasn't always so red, according to Jones. Election by election, he related how the state voted from 1896 to the present. Often enough, it went Democratic. In the 1930s, Utah was basically a one-party state: "It was all Democrats," Jones said.

Eventually, the political pendulum swung in the other direction.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruling in Roe vs. Wade, concerning abortion, "really solidified the Republican base" in Utah, he said.

"Roe vs. Wade really had impact in Utah."

Then in 1980, "Utahns fell in love with Ronald Reagan," he added. "No man running for president had a higher approval rating than Ronald Reagan." That popularity contributed to the Republican orientation of the Beehive State, according to Jones.

The Democrats' lone bright star in recent years has been 2nd District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

In 1992, Utah was the only state that gave independent candidate Ross Perot more votes than Democrat Bill Clinton.

In recent months, President Bush's Supreme Court appointments have resonated favorably with many Utahns, contributing to the strength of Republicans, he said.

National issues that are important to Utahns include Iraq and terrorism, he said. The recent arrest in Britain of accused terrorists allegedly plotting to blow up airliners flying between England and the United States will have an impact in the political polls.

"I promise you, he'll gain 5 percentage points, five," Jones said of Bush's popularity.

If Americans troops capture al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden before the 2008 election, Jones said, that will greatly improve Republicans' chances.

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