The wooing of Republicans, especially dissatisfied Republicans, by Gov. Norm Bangerter swung into high gear this week. Getting and keeping party members will be his major effort over the summer.
That's because a number of Republicans - way too many for Bangerter's liking - say they're planning to vote for Democrat Ted Wilson or independent Merrill Cook in the final election.The latest Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows that 35 percent of those who said they're Republicans plan to vote for Wilson, and 12 percent of the Republicans said they're voting for Cook.
Bangerter gets 46 percent of the Republican vote, but he wants - and by all traditional rights, expects - more of his party's support.
Contrast Bangerter's problems with Republicans to Sen. Orrin Hatch's party standing. Jones found that 88 percent of those who said they're Republicans are voting for Hatch this year.
If Bangerter could command such loyalty, he wouldn't be trailing Wilson 49-30 in the polls. And he'd have a shot at winning enough votes to neutralize Cook's 11 percent of the vote and overtake Wilson.
Without significant Republican support - support that he doesn't have now - Bangerter's re-election campaign will fail.
So his campaign manager, Dave Buhler, and other advisers have mapped out a strategy to get those Republicans back.
Part of that strategy is wooing and winning state GOP delegates.
This past Monday and Tuesday, Bangerter held small-group meetings with the delegates. "Each night we had three sessions at the (Governor's) Mansion," said Buhler. "In all, about 500 of the 2,500 delegates attended. We were very pleased. The governor did very well, as he always does, in the small groups."
Each delegate was asked to fill out a comment card as he or she left the mansion. "One delegate wrote, `I'm 100 percent behind the tax limitation petitions, and I'm 100 percent behind you.' We love to see that," Buhler said.
Many, but not all, of the governor's problems with Republicans stem from the tax limitation movement. These tax-cutters, many from the party's right wing, are on an anybody-but-Bangerter ride.
Outside of GOP politics, they support Cook's independent candidacy. But for now, they're with W. Dean Samuels, a Jordan High School teacher who is challenging Bangerter this weekend in the Republican State Convention.
Should Bangerter get 70 percent of the delegate vote in the convention, and he and Buhler say the governor will, then Samuels is knocked out of the race.
Should the tax limitation petitions fail to get enough signatures to put the proposals on the ballot - and they must be turned in to county clerks Monday - then Republican leaders hope the steam will go out of the movement and Cook will suffer accordingly.
Meanwhile, Bangerter and Buhler are working to identify traditional Republicans who are wavering on the governor. They'll use various means in that search.
Telephones and computers will be used to call tens of thousands of Republican households, with callers asking if the party members support Bangerter. If the respondents say "no," specialized mailings will be sent or personal contacts made.
Bangerter will also use resources of the Hatch campaign. In making their telephone contacts, Hatch volunteers will ask if the voter supports Bangerter, as well as Hatch. If they say "yes" on Hatch but "no" on Bangerter, their names will be turned over to the Bangerter campaign and further contact will be made in an effort to change each wayward Republican's mind.
Even if most of the Republicans come home, there's no guarantee that Bangerter can win the race if Cook stays in and draws conservative votes away from him. But if those Republicans don't come home, Bangerter won't win another term.