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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Response to: "Utah governor backs McCain; his dad prefers Romney"

Over at "The Krusty Konservative" a post about Utah Gov. Huntsman signing on with McCain was noted to be a "huge blow to the Romney Kampaign, and a koup for the McCain folks."

Last night, I contested their claim with the following (Most of the way down in the comments):

Seriously, what's the huge deal about Huntsman supporting McCain? It is not a "huge blow" and it WILL negate the argument that Mormons will blindly line up behind Romney just because he's LDS.

Romney will win Utah hands down. It won't even be close (and yes, I've seen the "cold-call" polls where McCain is beating Romney--by the slimmest margin of any state I might add. Most "everyday folks" in Utah still don't realize that Romney's a serious contender). Huntsman's political influence outside of Utah is not great.

Huntsman Jr. won't even be able to direct his billionaire dad's fortune to McCain since he's pretty excited about Romney.

This alliance with McCain is about an understandable "self-interest" on Huntsman's part. McCain's absolutely a top-tier candidate (who I could never support in a primary with the current alternatives)and he has a great chance of becoming POTUS. Notice how in the article Huntsman is posturing in the immigration/foreign policy areas. Huntsman is a former ambassador to Singapore and is fluent in Chinese. He is somewhat of a foreign policy expert on China and Southeast Asia, the next huge forefront of competition to our world dominance. I wouldn't be surprised if Huntsman's been promised a cabinet position by McCain for signing on board.

Well couldn't Romney promise the same kind of thing to Huntsman? People need to remember Romney will be reticent to fill up his cabinet with Mormons. Sec. of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt (former Utah Gov. and a Mormon) is VERY tight with Romney. I see him playing a high ranking cabinet spot if Romney wins so there won't be much room for another Mormon Utah Governor. It's a calculated political risk by Huntsman.

Am I just spinning? Maybe. I would like to have Huntsman Jr. in Romney's camp assuring the locking up of the Huntsman fortune. Also, being endorsed by a governor is always nice. However, this is just a "speed bump" on Romney's road. It is not a "huge blow" and should not be seen as Huntsman rejecting Romney's policies, stances, and candidacy.

This morning, an article just posted in the Deseret News and I commented at Krusty the following (including the quotes from the Deseret News article):

Looks like the Utah reporters read my comments above . . . ;)

Quoting the article that just posted a few minutes ago:

"The governor's father, Jon Huntsman Sr., is one of Romney's biggest supporters. "It was absolutely a surprise," said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and legal counsel to Romney's Commonwealth PACs. "The Huntsman family, including the governor, have been extremely supportive of Gov. Romney."
According to a recent Deseret Morning News analysis, Jon Huntsman Sr. had given Romney's PACs nearly $130,000 and is the Romney committee's national finance co-chairman."

And then:

"It's no secret that McCain has actively courted Gov. Huntsman, presumably because he sees Gov. Romney as his biggest rival if they both get into the race," Jowers said. Still, he said, Romney shouldn't be hurt by not having the support of Utah's governor."

And later:

"This summer, McCain addressed the Utah GOP state convention at Huntsman's request. There, McCain cited Huntsman as a rising star in the Republican party who he expected to do big things on a national, or even international, scale. For Huntsman, that could include serving in a GOP presidential administration. But there's some suggestion a President Romney might be more cautious about appointing a fellow Mormon to a key role."

Anyways, it was sort of vindicating to see my "off the top of my head" comments and ideas show up nearly point for point in the press.


Caucus Cooler said...

Great read on what the Romney folks were going to say about this. But what's your honest objective assessment of how this affects Mitt in Utah. The Cooler thinks this at least makes McCain a player there. Is that an overstatement?

Anonymous said...

So, if Romney can't lock down the Morman vote and 37% of Americans won't vote for a Morman, how does Mitt think he can win??

Jeff Fuller said...

Answers are in order . . .

There are nearly 6 million MormOns in the United states. Huntsman is one of them. Surely, all 5,999,999 of the others will vote for Romney.

Sounds absurd doesn't it? Just about as absurd as claiming that "Romney can't lock down the MormOn vote" because Huntsman doesn't support him. At least Huntsman has a reason to support McCain (again, this is not a sign that Huntsman is opposed to Romney . . . just that he has a strong vested interest in supporting McCain . . . like a prominent campaign position and/or future cabinet position.)

My personal impression from talking with/emailing hundreds of fellow Mormons about Romney is that there is EXTREME (even "OVERWHELMING") interest and support. However, the majority of LDS still don't know that Romney will be running for POTUS. Once he announces, you will see a change in the polling numbers, especially in Utah/Idaho/Wyoming/Nevada/Arizona with LDS populations of 72%/27%/11%, 7.1%/6.0% respectively . . . and don't forget to increase these percentages greatly for the percentage of registered Republicans that are Mormon (since I believe nearly 85-90% of LDS are Republican.)

Will it be a 100% lock for Romney amongst Mormon voters? Absolutely not (we are not that monolithic!) But I would geustimate at least 75-85% LDS support for Romney in the GOP primary and ~90-95%% in the general election. There will be hundreds of thousands of Mormons who will endorse/support other candidates. There will be thousands who actively denounce Romney based on personal/moral grounds. Are we going to hear this same argument each time any Mormon doesn't like Romney? If so, it's going to be a long and tedious campaign.

FWIW, Romney will also capture non-Republican Mormons. Of the handful of Mormon Democrats I know personally, ALL OF THEM so far are excited about a Romney candidacy (saying they'd vote for him in the general election or open primaries). One of them has even switched parties to help support Romney in the GOP primaries. Romney's 3rd highest donor thusfar is a Democrat (Kem Gardner). Mostly they are encouraged/impressed by his ability to maintain important values while getting things done amongst a liberal Democrat legislature in Massachusetts.

The REAL STORY here is how scared McCain is of Romney . . . that he's been pursuing Huntsman for a while now . . . that he's offered him a prominent spot in his national campaign . . . that he's likely offered him a future cabinet position. McCain is a fighter and pushed hard for this "symbolic victory." However, I don't think that this will deliver him the state of Utah. It may look like a strong move, but may not get him much out of it in the end. So, is McCain on the offense, or already playing defense against Romney? It could be viewed either way.

I believe that will answer to the questions from both visitors above.

Jeff Fuller said...

Oh, and the 37% question has been adequately debunked by myself and others before.

In brief: Many people don't want any strongly religious leader. Many polled probably equated "Mormon" with "Conservative Republican" (usually a safe assumption). And the poll wasn't worded as "never vote for a Mormon". Once Romney is out in the public eye, people will judge him as a person, politician, and future leader . . . the religion issue will be less and less as time goes by.

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