SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert met with Fox News Channel executives in New York City on Thursday as he looks to join the ranks of Republican colleagues like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin whose regular network appearances increase their national exposure and connect them with more supporters.
While Christie and Walker are considered possible 2016 presidential candidates, Herbert's spokesman said the governor's motivation is to promote Utah, not to prepare a run for higher office.
"I think the governor's always interested in sharing with a national audience or as broad of an audience as possible, the policies that we're working on in Utah, things that have worked for us in our state," said Herbert's spokesman, Marty Carpenter.
Damon Cann, a political scientist at Utah State University, said Herbert hasn't sent any signals he would run for anything other than re-election in two years.
"I haven't got the feeling from him that he's looking for a bigger stage," Cann said. "I think for Gov. Herbert, this probably is genuinely motivated by an effort to raise Utah's profile and prepare to be successful in 2016 more than it is to stake out some sort of national following for himself for future political ambition."
Herbert has made occasional appearances on national television, joining shows on CNBC, CNN, Fox News and Fox Business Network. But his meeting with Fox News executives comes on the heels of two appearances on the network over the past two months, discussing immigration and Utah's public lands.
Carpenter said the goal of the meeting was for Fox News executives to learn more about Utah issues and Herbert's role as a vice chairman of the National Governors Association, "and perhaps they're more likely to give us a call when they have breaking news or something they would want him to weigh in on."
The meeting was not designed to set up any recurring gig, and the governor did not come out with any upcoming appearances scheduled, Carpenter said.
He said it's primarily "a meet-and-greet, get-to-know-you" meeting.
Herbert has worked to raise Utah's national profile and promote its economy, and the TV appearances will further that, Cann said.
Herbert has high approval ratings, but if he faces a Republican challenger or a popular centrist Democrat such as U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, Cann said the high-profile interviews may give the governor an edge as he tries to lock up a second term in 2016. Matheson says he has no plans right now for 2016, but political experts say he's probably considering it.
For Herbert, "Not only is this an opportunity to reach out nationally but it's an opportunity to be seen by his core constituents promoting Utah aggressively on a national stage, in a venue where they will be pleased to see their governor," Cann said.
Thus far, the governor hasn't been in the public spotlight as much as other officials such as U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District and makes regular appearances on Fox News and other cable news networks.
Cann said the television appearances have helped Chaffetz become more recognized than the average member of Congress.
"Soon after I got elected, I got invited and then they started inviting me back," Chaffetz said, joking that "They look for people who can talk on camera and not drool."
Chaffetz said the national interviews help him get his message out amid the 535 members of Congress.
"My job role and responsibility is to be as influential as possible. If I'm going to represent Utah's 3rd District, you want to be influential," he said. "And being able to communicate with millions of people in a four-minute interview is a powerful tool."
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