Ask U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon and his GOP challenger Jason Chaffetz what the two men have in common politically, and they will start talking about how they couldn't be more different from that other guy.
But in a 20-question survey given to the men by the Deseret News, stands taken by Cannon and Chaffetz are nearly the same.
Only when asked why one would be a better congressman than his opponent do the men really take on the other guy, each saying Utah Republicans should vote for him in the June 24 primary election.
Perhaps, since both Cannon, a six-term Republican seeking re-election this year, and Chaffetz, the former chief of staff of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., describe themselves as staunch conservatives, their politics may not be that different, despite how they see each other personally.
The candidates' complete questionnaires can be viewed in the "related content" area above.
Asked what his greatest strength is, and what Cannon's greatest weakness is, Chaffetz said: "My greatest strength and my opponent's greatest weakness are the same the ability to communicate."
Cannon himself said sometimes he doesn't articulate an answer as well as he would like. "Some of us are blessed with a silver tongue and others with a thirst for knowledge. I abhor sound bite politics; I will continue to engage on the issues in an in-depth and thorough manner."
But Chaffetz says Cannon is just plain out of touch and has been for some time. "Utahns deserve someone who can listen to them," said Chaffetz, "and then effectively articulate our perspective and values in Washington."
Cannon said: "I do not like talking about myself. I prefer to work toward a goal and ensure that all who contribute are given the credit they deserve."
Cannon said he really couldn't point out any weaknesses of Chaffetz. "Like the vast majority of us in the 3rd District, I do not know enough about him to presume to know his greatest weakness or strength. I have a transparent record; my career and life have been examined and reported on for years, and I am a known quantity. That is not the case with my opponent, and I will leave it to the voters to judge."
Still, Cannon, brother of Deseret News editor Joe Cannon, took a few shots at Chaffetz around the edges.
For example, asked why he would make a better congressman than Chaffetz, Cannon wrote: "I have been a lifelong conservative."
Chaffetz was connected by marriage to Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. Chaffetz's father was married to Kitty Dukakis (Michael's wife) before they divorced and the elder Chaffetz married Chaffitz's mother. Chaffetz, then a place kicker for the BYU football team, campaigned for Michael Dukakis in Utah in 1988. Chaffetz later become a Republican, idolized Ronald Reagan and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well.
Cannon said: "I live in the 3rd District and understand our issues and concerns." Chaffetz lives in Alpine, Utah County. The 2001 GOP-controlled Legislature, to put more Republicans in the 2nd District held by Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, carved out the northeast corner of Utah County (long the traditional home of the 3rd District) and put it into the 2nd District.
Chaffetz lives two miles outside of the 3rd District line. Under the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. House member need only live in the state he represents; he doesn't have to live in his district. Chaffetz points out that he lived in the 3rd District before 2001 and under a four-district plan adopted by the Legislature recently, he will live in the 3rd District again after the 2010 Census and redistricting in 2011.
Chaffetz said of Cannon: "I intend to spend my political capital on the issues that matter most to Utah. I am passionate, tenacious and driven by principle. Mr. Cannon has squandered his opportunities on issues Utahns don't care about and he hasn't been able to address the ones we do care about. ... I will always make listening to constituents a priority for myself and my staff."
Here are some of the men's responses to the newspaper's questionnaire:
• Federal deficit and the economy: Both men want balanced federal budgets and to pay down the deficit. Chaffetz favors "proactively addressing" entitlement programs (like Social Security and Medicare) to help balance the budget, along with across-the-board spending cuts and cutting ineffective federal programs.
Cannon wants the balanced budget amendment and giving the president the line item veto. Chaffetz says: "I unequivocally oppose the abusive use of (budget) earmarks. I will not ask for an earmark until this process is changed."
Cannon says Congress should be able to use spending earmarks, but the current system must be reformed so that every earmark requested is attached to the congressman asking for it, any financial benefit to the congressman made public and each earmark should be voted up or down by the whole bodies.
Both men promise they won't vote for any tax hike over the next two years.
• Iraq war: Cannon says after Iraqis take full control of their own security, American troops should start a phased withdrawal. Chaffetz says after the "desperately needed political solution" is achieved, American troops should be brought home sooner than later. He adds he doesn't believe American troops should be in Iraq "for decades." Cannon says American troops should stay in Iraq as long as the U.S. and Iraqi governments agree they should be there. "We must see our commitment through," said Cannon.
• Illegal immigration: Both men are against "amnesty." They both want the U.S. borders sealed. They want current laws enforced. They both want a temporary worker program with now-illegals registering and working in the U.S. for a while before being forced to return to their homelands and "stand in line" to get back in legally.
Cannon says it is a state and local issue whether the children of illegal immigrants should pay in-state college tuition. Chaffetz is against such a break.
• Constitutional amendments: Both men favor amendments to ban flag burning and to make traditional marriage between a man and a woman the only marriages allowed.• Both men favor new nuclear power plants, both in Utah (where currently there are none) and in the U.S. They want to deregulate energy production, more oil drilling and oil shale development.