Utah is going to spend $1.3 million next week holding a presidential primary election statewide.

Now, since it is undemocratic to speak against a public vote of the people, I have to start out by saying a presidential primary in Utah is a good thing. And every registered voter should take advantage of their franchise and vote.

Having stated that, Utah political leaders will, once again, be frustrated in their main presidential primary goal: Actually get leading candidates to Utah to learn about our shared concerns with other Western states and our own unique problems here.

Yes, that's right.

Except for a few campaign TV and radio ads, the GOP and Democratic candidates aren't coming here before Tuesday's vote.

That's because they have better — more important politically — places to be.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Hey, sometimes we aren't even invited to the wedding.

Now, Barack Obama was actually scheduled to come on Saturday for some brief campaigning. But he canceled because of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley's funeral, held the same day. Now we get Mrs. Obama on Monday.

We got Chelsea Clinton this week — I suppose we should be glad for even a candidate's child or spouse.

Still, the candidates came regularly last year — here for private fundraising events. Fly in, take our money and leave. A few held a press conference or a quick rally. But that was last year.

Nothing, really, as our primary approaches.

I remember when former Gov. Mike Leavitt spent a year traveling the West trying to line up a regional primary. A political guru, Leavitt even claimed that the road to the White House for a savvy GOP candidate could come through Utah and her surrounding states.

We spent something like $600,000 on that primary in 2000. Yep, only one candidate came here just before the primary for a brief visit. In fact, the major parties had already decided on their nominee before Utah and two other states held primaries or caucuses. Another bust.

This year just over 20 states are holding primaries and caucuses Tuesday. Up against behemoth states like California, New York, New Jersey and so on, little ole Utah looks pretty slim.

LDS Church member Mitt Romney will run away with Utah's GOP vote — no competition at all — and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the other two GOP hopefuls aren't coming.

Even on the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Obama shunned us — except to take our money last year.

So go vote Tuesday and don't feel bad about the $1.3 million price tag. It could have gone to something worse.

• I give a formal "well done" to House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, for his hard work on health-care insurance reform this year. Clark, a banker, is proving himself one of the smartest legislators around. He's taken on some tough issues — like reforming the state's employee retirement issues (where he earned the hatred of many longtime state workers, but, legislators say, put the state's retirement health system on a sustainable road).

His health-care plan is a good start, many groups involved say.


Deseret Morning News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]