As the John McCain/Sarah Palin presidential ticket and national Republicans try to define their vision of America and run — as difficult as it may be — a campaign of change against eight years of the Bush administration, Utah Republicans don't have to worry about great erosion of their local political base.

The problems that the national GOP are finding — as outlined so well by David Frum in a recent New York Times magazine article — just aren't seen here.

Indeed, Utah is just a different political animal.

As Frum points out, more and more the American society is being split into the really rich and the struggling middle class. Suburbs across the nation, from Virginia to Ohio, are moving to Democratic Party candidates as middle-class America finds its own family finances stagnant or actually deteriorating.

Republicans have held the White House by far most of the time since the 1970s. They've held Congress during the 1990s and parts of the 2000s. As Wall Street tanks, the national debt has exploded and we're involved in an unpopular war in Iraq.

National GOP leaders have announced that there is little chance that Republicans can win back either the U.S. House or U.S. Senate in 2008.

Out West, several states, like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, could go Democratic in the presidential race, while their Democratic candidates in congressional races are doing well and legislative candidates are making gains.

Yet Utah sees little political change.

Part of that is the natural conservative nature of large numbers of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Idaho also has significant numbers of Mormons, and it, too, is not moving much toward the Democratic Party.

But there are also the "moral" issues on which Utahns stand firm.

Some issues are simply nonstarters here — nontraditional marriage, abortion and gay rights.

And it is not just Mormon thinking on those issues.

A family acquaintance, who has a gay son, is a member of an ethnic/religious group in Utah (not a Mormon). Even though she had been active in her church much of her life, now she shuns it — tired of facing longtime friends who reject her son's openly gay life.

There is one hope for Utah Democrats: that Salt Lake County could be a turning point.

Democrats are one seat away from winning control of the Salt Lake County Council.

And Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is popular and appears ready to easily win a second term, and U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, should do well in the county, too.

Democrats also hope for some lightning strikes in Utah House and Senate races in Salt Lake County. Slowly, Democrats have been winning seats moving south from Salt Lake City down the county's east bench.

Some hard-working moderate Republicans are trying to reverse that trend this election, but the march has been fairly constant, if, at times, halting.

In the 2006 elections, about 8,000 more residents voted straight Democratic ticket in Salt Lake County than voted straight Republican ticket — at least an indication that many county voters are picking Republicans and Democrats down the ballot.

Frum writes: "Conservatives need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the trend toward the Democrats among America's affluent well-educated." He adds that of the 10 best-educated states, seven are Democratic in their voting and the other three are trending Democratic.

Suburbs used to be solidly Republican in many states. No longer, says Frum, citing several suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., that are turning Democratic.

Still, while Democrats are hoping Salt Lake County may be slightly moving in that direction, there is little change in Cache, Davis, Utah and Weber counties, where Republicans still control the suburbs.


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