♪♪♪ announcer: Funding for "The Hinckley Report" is made possible in part by the Cleone Peterson Eccles Endowment Fund.
Jason Perry: Tonight on "The Hinckley Report," Utah Republicans meet at their annual convention to establish their platform and priorities, the 2024 election begins to take shape as candidates make their intentions clear, and our panel looks ahead at how politics could heat up this summer.
♪♪♪ Jason Perry: Good evening, and welcome to the season finale of "The Hinckley Report."
I'm Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Covering the week we have Kate Bradshaw, member of the Bountiful City Council; Ben Winslow, reporter with Fox 13 News; and Glen Mills, anchor with ABC 4 News.
So glad you're here tonight on the season finale.
We have a lot to get to.
What's happening in politics right now, and maybe at the end even what we see coming for the rest of the summer, because there is a lot.
Let's start with the convention, Ben.
You were there, the Republican convention was this past Saturday, the headliner was Governor Ron DeSantis, introduced by Senator Mike Lee.
Ben Winslow: That's right, and the crowd went wild.
They loved Governor DeSantis, they loved that red meat speech that he delivered, served it up like a steak to the crowd, and they ate it up.
It was filled with the kind of stuff that you would expect to hear from him, going after woke policies, going after all these different things that he doesn't like, and then touting his administration's successes, painting himself as someone who isn't afraid to stand up to everybody else, calling other Republicans who maybe aren't as aggressive as he is potted plants.
It had it all, and it really said a lot, but it didn't say one thing, which is, is he running for president?
It walked right up to that line, and that was it.
Glen Mills: The great thing about convention is even in an off year, it gives us something to look at and to talk about and to cover.
Always something going on at convention on both sides, but Ron DeSantis, even though he hasn't officially run in, a lot of people presume that he will get into the presidential race, and he is a fairly popular pick here in the state of Utah.
We saw back in November a list of about 86 elected officials that includes state senators, state representatives, council members, mayors from across the state encouraging him to get in the race, and that all centers around the fact that former president Trump has always struggled a little bit here in the State of Utah with Republicans.
In 2016 he did not win the primary, that went to Ted Cruz.
In both 2016 and 2020 in the statewide race he finished historically lower than you would expect the Republican nominee or even the Republican incumbent to do in our state.
So, I think there are a lot of people as President Trump leads the pack right now to maintain that--or to get that Republican nomination in 2024, a lot of people in our state are looking for alternatives.
Jason Perry: Go ahead Kate.
Kate Bradshaw: I was just gonna mention, you know, Glen, you mentioned the list that came out of people that were kind of urging Governor DeSantis to run.
What's interesting is they had aimed for a higher number.
They had wanted to have 100 elected officials sign on here in the State of Utah, and they fell short.
And I think it's because of exactly what you have just said, that there is a desire to kind of wait and see who your options are.
You know, we had some other people recently announce.
You know, Governor Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas.
He might be attractive to some, and, you know, there's also Governor Sununu from New Hampshire is out there as well.
Jason Perry: Well, to your point, Kate, we asked, you know, some of our congressional delegation that were there too, and John Curtis, who said, I think his exact words are, "I like him," just said to Ron DeSantis, "I want to see the full field."
So, it's interesting we had that many elected officials from a broad range of government already saying, "We kind of like DeSantis."
What do you make of that this early, and the fact that DeSantis hasn't announced?
Kate Bradshaw: Well, we do have as a state kind of some reservations about the way Donald Trump goes about conducting himself.
You know, in Utah we are nicer than that, generally, than he sometimes portrays himself.
You know, we have a friendlier relationship with immigrants, we've been embracing of them, he sometimes is attacking, you know, those communities.
And so, he hasn't always been a great fit, Utah Republican Party and Donald Trump.
Governor DeSantis, you know, he has a lot of those same conservative principles that are attractive, but not with some of those rough edges of Donald Trump.
So, there's definitely interest there, but I think people are also saying, "We want to see who has the best chance of beating Joe Biden, and we're not sure yet who that is.
And so, we're interested in seeing what the full field looks like."
Jason Perry: To get a taste for this, Glen, what's interesting is the convention tends to be some--the more conservative end of the Republican party, at least historically.
And so, the question really was, was--how does DeSantis do compared to Donald Trump in that particular group?
And they did their own straw poll, it's not a scientific-- it's their own straw poll of the people who did show up for this convention, and interestingly, Ron DeSantis won that one 54%, followed by Donald Trump at 29%.
What do you make of that?
Ben Winslow: It--I don't know.
I--it's hard to say, because this is, of course, your party faithful.
These are the people who will take their time in an off year, you know, leading up to a major election year and show up at convention and participate in the process.
I'm not sure if they were just, you know, really excited about the speech that he delivered, and so the instant poll reaction was, yeah, this is great, or if there really is a--if this is a bellwether of where things are going.
I'd like to see some additional polling of more of the broader Republican electorate and see how that fares.
So, Jason Perry: Glen, give us a comment.
But look, can I give you the numbers as you do?
Because, of course, the Hinckley Institute did some polling on this race.
Yeah, so, so please.
Glen Mills: Well, go ahead and give the numbers.
Jason Perry: So, numbers are, it was 21% DeSantis, 16% Trump.
This is from Utah identified Republicans.
Glen Mills: Right, so that digs a little deeper into what Ben was referring to at convention, and that brings it a lot closer there as well.
But 21% and 16%, that's still a lot of extra voters to get, and we'll start to see that play out as more people get into the race.
Like, Pence showed up on-- former Vice President Mike Pence showed up in the straw poll.
If he were to announce, maybe people would more seriously get behind him in the state of Utah.
He has a lot of friends here, including former governor Gary Herbert.
So, there's still a long way to go, a lot more people are probably going to get into the race, and ideas and favorability may change as that happens.
But that's another thing I wanna point out, is back in 2016 we saw a plurality as a friend to former President Donald Trump in the primary.
He ended up winning it with a low percentage because there were so many candidates in there.
A lot of people that I'm talking to say that is a key to watch in this upcoming Republican primary, is the plurality effect.
And the more people that get in, the sense is that, that benefits former President Trump the most.
Jason Perry: You can kind of see a pathway to 37%.
We have a plurality issue.
Go ahead, Kate.
Kate Bradshaw: You know, it is such a long way to November of 2024.
Unfortunately, that's how our presidential cycles go these days.
And so, I think we're all going to be subject for the next several months to a lot of people coming out and a lot of tests and polls as we see if this field will kind of winnow down a little bit.
Jason Perry: Part of this is sort of the policies at play, and just I want one more part of this too, because I think, Glen, you mentioned this just a moment ago maybe.
I think you did as well, Ben.
Ron DeSantis went after the-- what he called the woke in the legislature.
That's the word he was using, right?
These are policies that he says he's going after, and he made a little bit of a reference as to whether or not Florida is a lot like Utah.
Kate Bradshaw: He did make that reference, and, you know, there are--there have been some similar bills sweeping across legislatures.
You know, Utah is one of those.
You know, we did have legislation this most recent session on, you know, transgender surgeries, on, you know, things involving students records at the K through 12 level in terms of, you know, pronouns or things like that.
So, we have some of those same issues here.
It does seem to me that Florida has taken them quite a bit further, but we're not the only state.
You know, he made a, I think, a reference to, you know, similarities between Utah and Florida.
I think one of the great benefits we have is, of course, our fiscal management, you know, just really stands above, and that might be something Florida envies.
While we maybe don't envy all of the way Governor DeSantis has taken that agenda, you know, into the business world the way he has done in Florida.
Jason Perry: Glen, one thing that's interesting that came up in this convention, as it often does, was about the nominating process.
It was--there was a resolution, it did pass, and what was interesting about this is it was a resolution the party would support nominees chosen by its own, these were their words, grassroots delegates, not support--and not support other candidates, and they encourage the legislature next session to restore their authority to pick their own candidates.
Glen Mills: Okay, so first off, it's a resolution, meaning it has no binding authority, so that's the first point we need to make there.
But that's nothing new.
We've seen party delegates and central committee members for, really, ever since SB54 went into implementation, try to chip away at it.
And we've seen that happen every year.
And that's ultimately the goal in something like this.
I had Robert Axson on my show, the new GOP chair, just last week, talked to him about that.
Obviously, Carson Jorgensen, the outgoing chair, he made no bones about it, he would like to get rid of the signature path and just go back to convention.
Robert Axson did not necessarily go as far as Carson Jorgensen does, but he acknowledged that is the law of the land right now in the state of Utah that we have to abide by, but he didn't rule out these efforts to continue to chip away at that.
Ben Winslow: Yeah, but if you do that, you might trigger a referendum, and that might not yield the same results you would like.
Count my vote is still out there, it still has a presence on Capitol Hill, and if this truly did come to pass, it might trigger a citizen referendum that does away with the caucus convention system entirely.
Glen Mills: And I think a lot of people are saying, let's get to that point and get it over with once and for all.
Kate Bradshaw: You know, I've been a long time Republican delegate.
Right now I serve as a county level delegate for my neighborhood, and, you know, the challenge that the party has to address is turnout.
Caucus, neighborhood caucus turnout is low.
We continue to see it be low among women and younger families in particular.
The length of the caucus or the convention day is really long in the Davis County convention.
I was there from 8:45 in the morning till 5:30 p.m. You know, many families, young families with kids playing sports or having activities, you can't commit to that length of time.
And so, you still have to solve this challenge, is the caucus convention system representative of the party?
And, you know, you see the majority of people so far saying no, and I like preserving this path.
It's great that we have this ability to caucus together, to discuss together, but I don't want that to be, you know, the only thing.
And the legislature consistently has also said, yeah, we see this disparity too, which is why efforts to repeal SB54 just not advanced year over year since it was implemented.
Glen Mills: And just add to that point, we have seen numerous examples of where the convention vote was widely different from the primary vote ever since the implementation of SB54.
I could name several of them.
Jason Perry: I wanna talk about the Democrats for just a moment.
So, Ben, the Democrats are meeting May 30 in Cedar City.
Ben Winslow: Yeah, three hours south of Salt Lake City.
It appears to be an effort to appeal to rural areas that typically have to make the trip.
The Republican Party, I don't think the logistics would lend itself because you have so many delegates.
You don't have quite the same numbers with the Democratic Party.
But it does appear to be some kind of an outreach there.
But there's also a virtual component for people who don't feel like making the journey, and I'll be curious to see how many people actually are willing to get in the car, travel three hours, and participate for what appears to be just party officer elections this year.
Jason Perry: So far I'm not--I don't know if any of you have seen a resolution coming forward at this point?
I haven't yet.
Glen Mills: Yeah, and I'll be surprised if many people decide to make that trip.
Jason Perry: Okay, we'll watch that one closely as well.
Let's talk about a big announcement this week, Kate.
President Joe Biden announced he's in.
Kate Bradshaw: He did.
I, you know, I don't know that it was a great surprise to any of us people.
We've kind of assumed that given the way he rolled out his State of the Union speech and several other initiatives.
But he's in, he's running.
You know, he will if elected be at the end of his term the oldest president we've ever had serving.
That continues to be an issue that dogs him, his age and potentially his health.
And so, he's gonna have his work cut out for him to show that he can keep up the robust schedule that a presidential election requires, that service requires, and then, you know, then the policy issues, right?
Is he able to unite the country and solve some of the challenges that we continue to see ahead of us?
So, it'll be, you know, it'll probably just set up a battle that we've seen play out four years ago.
Jason Perry: So, let's talk about the battle, Ben.
Okay, so people are talking about who it might be, and we see it now, people are wondering, are we gonna see another election between Trump and Biden?
Is that a race people you're interviewing are interested in?
Ben Winslow: I think everybody there, the vibe I'm getting is just there's a lot of reluctance on every level, and I wonder if it's just politics fatigue, or if it's just, you know, people just don't want to see the same cast of characters or what.
But, you know, there--but to the point of the Republican party convention and what you saw with, like, Congressman Curtis's comments, there's also still on the Republican side a lot of wait and see.
Let's just wait and see who emerges as the front runner, who emerges as the nominee, and then, you know, gauge it from there.
Glen Mills: One thing I think is interesting on the Democratic side is it's not likely that any viable candidate is going to step up and try to challenge the president for the nomination, but some of the early polling prior to the president making his decision is very interesting and telling.
An AP poll that I was reading through showed that only 26% of Americans thought he should run for a second term.
That's an extremely low number.
Then when you break it down into his own party, not even half of Democrats think he should run for a second term, it was, like, 47%.
Those are really low numbers when you take a look at the attitude and what Americans are thinking about the president.
A lot of people are saying on the Democratic side that most of that is related to what Kate already brought up, and that is the age factor.
And Republicans will be obviously trying to hammer away at that.
It's not just the age, it's also policy, economics, and what not.
Jason Perry: Glen, to this point, though, Ben is right, just wait and see a little bit about who emerges.
But people who want to run for office in the state of Utah are thinking about what happens down ballot even now if those two people are at the top of the ticket.
Glen Mills: Right, and we'll have to kind of wait and see what happens with that, but I do think the way it sits right now that that is a race that while people maybe say not necessarily the candidates I'm interested in, it will still got a lot of attention and could still energize voters on each side based on the fact that they don't want the other side to be victorious.
So, it could kind of have that effect on this race.
Jason Perry: So, Kate, this is always interesting.
You're our one elected official here.
Which you--you start talking about the people at the top of the ticket, how it impacts down ballot races, but also it goes to this turn out to a pretty significant degree is who--do people show up?
Do they show up to vote against someone?
Do they show up to vote for someone?
What is this setting up to look like?
Kate Bradshaw: You know, it is one of those things that excitement at the top of the ticket does help draw attention to those lower races where the public isn't as familiar with the candidates or even sometimes the responsibilities of those lower offices on the ticket.
So, turnout is important.
It could be that, you know, there's not as much excitement, but because it's still a presidential year, that always is going to just ensure that we've been unable to avoid weeks and weeks, months and months of ads about it.
So, that will inform people that it's coming up, so there's always that factor.
You'll see a bump, but maybe it won't be as big a bump as what we saw four years ago in terms of turnout.
Jason Perry: I want to leave this in just a moment, but, Glen, I think you're gonna be at an event today where the former Vice President Mike Pence is in town.
Probably not going to announce if he's running today or not, but it's interesting that he's here.
Glen Mills: It certainly is, and also on the heels of a very historic day.
Just yesterday he was testifying before a grand jury.
It's something we've never seen a vice president compelled to do in the modern history of our country.
But he's going to be meeting with business leaders and local community leaders, also people who are known as big donors, so I think we can't overlook that.
And it kind of gives us a little hint.
It, again, we mentioned earlier that DeSantis is presumed to be a presidential candidate.
I think we would say the same thing about the former vice president.
Jason Perry: Okay, let's keep talking about candidates for just a moment, because I wanna get to what we're gonna see in the next coming weeks to the rest of the summer.
You mind a little prognostication today as well?
So, Ben, Mitt Romney's Senate seat.
Ben Winslow: Will he, won't he, will he, won't he?
Jason Perry: Yes, are you gonna let us know now?
Ben Winslow: I wish I knew.
Believe me, if I knew, I'd be reporting it.
But that is the big question.
He has formed his own exploratory committee, but you also have other people like House Speaker Brad Wilson who formed their own committees too to look at this.
So, it suggests that even if Senator Romney chooses to run for re-election, he might be facing some intraparty competition.
And I highly doubt that Speaker Wilson is the last name that we see jumping into that race too.
Glen Mills: Absolutely right, yeah, I think there could be a long list of people who jump in, especially if the senator decides to step away.
My sources tell me that the sense right now is that he is not going to run again, but that's not set in stone.
It could change.
But I think you'll see a lot of people jump in, and an interesting thing about this as well is the domino effect, because if Senator Romney is out, I think maybe you have at least three representatives from the State of Utah that will be eyeing that.
Jason Perry: From Congress.
Glen Mills: Yeah, from Congress, in Curtis, Stewart, and Moore.
I think those three would look at that as potential.
There are a bunch of names in the state of Utah at the mayor level, at the state legislature level, and others that could potentially jump in as well.
Jason Perry: Kate, the governor's race.
Is Cox gonna get an interparty challenger?
Kate Bradshaw: You know, I think he will get a challenger, and I think you can sense that from some of the delegates, right?
It's not necessarily news at this point.
You know, the governor didn't receive a warm and fuzzy reception from the delegates, but he hasn't.
He, you know, he--and he chose not to attend last year's convention.
So, I think there will be some that feel from the farther right wing of the Republican Party that they would like to, you know, propose a different candidate.
I don't know that it'll be a strong candidate though, in that regard.
Governor Cox, in my opinion, does a good job of appealing to the majority of the Republican Party, which isn't necessarily the delegates.
Glen Mills: Interesting developments there is Governor Cox in 2021 convention and the primary, that's the first time that's happened in an open seat at the state or congressional level where the candidate who won convention also went on to win the primary, so you've definitely seen a shift in how delegates are receiving the governor when four years ago they pushed him through as their nominee as well.
Jason Perry: Another big race.
So, Ben, this Salt Lake City mayor's race.
Wow, it's getting pretty interesting right now.
A couple of big people on the ticket that we know of, and our current mayor Erin Mendenhall, Rocky Anderson back in the mix, talk about what's happening here and what we might see over the summer.
Ben Winslow: Okay, so this is gonna be interesting, because we might not see a lot over the summer really.
And this is why, because the Salt Lake City Council has opted to use ranked choice voting this year, that--for the mayor's race.
They experimented with it in previous years in the city council, and it worked out okay, so then now they're gonna do that.
That means there's no primary.
So, you won't see this mad dash to the primary.
Everybody goes to the general ballot and voters have to, you know, rank.
Right now under the traditional voting method, and this is your little primer on this, you pick hot or not.
You pick one.
Under ranked choice voting it's first to worst, and so you choose in order of your preference.
And so, this could really be an interesting race where you start having candidates having to jostle, and they can no longer rely on their base to just carry them through, they have to start reaching out to other people to--maybe if you're not--you can still win if you're someone's second choice or third choice, just depending on how many vote for you.
Jason Perry: Well, so interesting, Kate, because you start, you know, kind of eyeing number two spot.
So, I might not be your number one, but I'd love to be your number two.
How does this play out in a very important race like this where you--we may have several candidates, and you have very well loved and also not so well loved people, and one first place and in last place.
Kate Bradshaw: You know, it really changes your campaign strategy, and we're still kind of figuring out that campaign strategy, because, you know, the council race two years ago was the first time Salt Lake City had tried this.
So, when Mayor Mendenhall won four years ago, this wasn't in place, so her campaign team, her campaign strategy was all aimed at that traditional system.
And so, now, yes, there is going to be this element of if there are multiple candidates that file, how do you appeal to be someone's number two or number three?
I'm confident that, you know, she's thinking through that strategy.
I'm sure that uh Rocky Anderson is also thinking through that strategy.
But it does mean that if you start out too early, you know, if you throw your signs out early, you know, they start to become just background and people don't see them.
It's also, you know, someone who's run a municipal election, it's really hard to get the electorate to pay attention in June and July and August when they're on summer vacation.
It's hot, you wanna be out, you know, we've gone through COVID, and people are finally ready to go out and play.
And so, you know, there isn't a lot that will probably happen in the summer because of what Salt Lake City has elected in terms of their election cycle that will just drive everything to the fall.
Ben Winslow: And municipals are about ground game, so you really can't go start knocking on doors too easy.
So, maybe everybody--the electorate gets a little bit of a summer vacation.
Glen Mills: Still a fascinating race though in the capital city between a former mayor and the current mayor seeking a second term.
Rocky Anderson, obviously, the mayor back in the early 2000s for two terms.
He has come out swinging, true to his name.
He's not holding back.
He's being very critical of the current mayor, saying he can do things better on a cleanliness level, a crime level, and through homelessness.
And the mayor is kind of taking the approach of just going about her job, doing her job, and, and mostly campaigning that way.
Ben Winslow: And who knows who else will jump in?
Jason Perry: Do we know names, Ben?
Ben Winslow: We have heard of a few other names.
There is a community activist, Michael Valentine, I believe, who has said that he's going to run, but filing closes mid-June, so who knows?
Jason Perry: Can't wait to watch that one.
One thing that is going to play out this week, I just want to spend a minute on this, Kate, because it's an issue in Congress continually it seems, the debt limit.
We have--seem to have reached-- and our members of our Congress, the House in particular, is working on something over the next couple of days, passed the House just this week, the "Limit, Save, Grow Act," which is interesting.
Raising the constitutional debt limit, I just want to see how this plays out over the summer into the next election, because the Republicans are tying the debt ceiling increase to reductions in spending.
Kate Bradshaw: You know, we have a lot of experience, unfortunately, in doing this.
You know, we've gone through the cycle before.
The Treasury notifies us, hey, we're approaching our debt limit.
We're going to take measures to, you know, play a shell game with some of our money.
Congress, you're on notice, we need to figure this out.
You know, we go through this debate about, you know, you know, we need to pay our bills.
Let's pay our bills.
Let's reduce our spending so we don't keep reaching our debt limit.
You know, speaker of the House passed a bill, he had 218 votes, and kind of threw down a marker in these negotiations, and that's where we're at right now.
We're in this--these negotiations, this game of chicken between the House, the Senate, and the President about what we will do.
It is one of those things that we're, you know, I was back in Washington D.C. earlier this week talking with our delegation, and, you know, how can we keep raising our limit if we don't address spending?
It's something I'm required to do at the local level, something the state does.
We need to pay our bills, the full faith and credit of the United States matters a lot to our economy, and especially how we feel about our economy.
But it is disconcerting that we keep spending money we don't have.
Jason Perry: We'll watch this one closely, this is gonna have to be the last word on this one, but let's watch it closely this week.
Thank you so much for your great insights this evening and for the rest of the summer.
We'll watch closely.
And thank you for watching "The Hinckley Report."
This show is also available as a podcast on PBSUtah.org/HinckleyReport or wherever you get your podcasts.
Thank you for being with us.
We'll see you next season.