The Utah governor's race has closed, and all the candidates are happy.
Ted Wilson is glad to be 10 points ahead of Gov. Norm Bangerter, Bangerter is glad to have closed the gap and independent Merrill Cook is ecstatic to get 20 percent of the vote for the first time.The latest Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows that if the election were held today, 43 percent would vote for Wilson, the Democrat; 33 percent would vote for the Republican Bangerter; and 20 percent would vote for Cook. One percent told Jones they'd vote for someone else and 3 percent didn't know.
Jones questioned 900 adults between Oct. 3-6; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.
Among those who said they are most likely to vote, the race is about the same: Wilson gets 43 percent, Bangerter 33 percent and Cook 19 percent, Jones found.
A poll taken by Jones a month ago showed 47 percent for Wilson, 34 percent for Bangerter and 16 percent for Cook. So, Wilson has dropped four points, Bangerter has dropped one point and Cook has gained four points.
Rob Jolley, Wilson's campaign manager, said the Wilson campaign is delighted with the latest poll. "I've been very worried what your poll would show. But the most important number is Norm's. He hasn't moved from between 27 percent and 34 percent in a year. He's stuck. That's what's important for us." Jolley said they had planned for Wilson to be 10 points up on Labor Day. "To be 10 points up in October is great. We've always figured this would end up a five point race. If Norm continues to close (over the next month) as he has in your recent polls, we win by 7 points on election day. And, hey, we'll certainly take that."
Bangerter said he is pleased with the poll. "Ted continues to drop. Our support remains firm. Now we have to convince those Republicans (who are voting for Wilson or Cook) to come to us. And they will."
Dave Buhler, Bangerter' campaign manager, also is pleased with the poll. "My fear is that we could drop to 19 points again (to where an earlier poll placed Bangerter). Then we'd have been in big trouble. But this is very, very good. The bottom line for us is that people in Utah don't traditionally throw away their votes. Cook is 23 points down. He can't win under any conditions. When people come to see that, they'll come to us. We figure we'll pick up 5-10 pointsfrom Cook on election day. That will never show in the polls, however, because it will be a decision made in the voting booth."
Cook said, "The 20-point threshold is very important." This poll shows "Cook is up, Wilson is down and Bangerter is stagnant." "It shows what I've said all along. If you want to stop Ted Wilson from being governor, you vote for Merrill Cook.
"The last time that an independent candidate for governor won _ when Jim Langley won the Maine governorship in 1974 _ Langley was 19 points in the poll just before the election. We can win this thing and we will."
Jones also asked the 20 percent of Cook voters who they would vote for if Cook got out of the race. He found that 30 percent said Bangerter, 49 percent said Wilson, 11 percent said they'd vote for someone other than those two and 10 percent didn't know who they would vote for.
"I expect Bangerter will try to get Cook out, anyway," said Jolley. "But I doubt Cook will go."
Buhler said no one from the Bangerter campaign or administration has approached Cook, who was a Republican before leaving the party last April to file as an independent.
"I know that some (Republican) party people have been talking to Merrill on and off. Even though your poll shows that more would go to Wilson, I think many would come to the governor. But we believe we can win this thing with Merrill in or out of the race. We aren't interested in making any kind of a deal with him," Buhler said.
Cook said he won't budge on his candidacy. "There is no way, no way, we are getting out of this race. We won't even consider it. Absolutely not."
Just over a week ago, in an effort to get some of the tax protest vote that has been behind Cook, Bangerter promised that if re-elected he'd move to cap property taxes at current levels. To find out if that had any effect on voters, Jones asked if the governor's tax limitation plan made them more or less likely to vote for him. Twenty-three percent said they are more likely to vote for Bangerter because of his plan, 64 percent said the plan made no difference to them in their voting and 10 percent said Bangerter's plan made them less likely to vote for the governor.
Jolley said, "Those results show me that the people saw Bangerter's actions for what they are _ a political move to gain votes."
But Buhler said he's pleased that twice as many people who were influenced by the plan were moved in toward the governor.
Wilson and Bangerter oppose the tax-cutting initiatives, Cook favors them. In an effort to find out if voters' preferences on the initiatives flavor who they support in the governor's race, Jones asked if Wilson's, Bangerter's and Cook's stands on the initiatives made voters more or less likely to vote for the each of those gubernatorial candidates.
In all cases, the men's stands on the initiatives had little influence. More than three-fourths of those questioned said Wilson's and Bangerter's stands on the initiatives made no difference to them in deciding on the governor's race. Cook's pro-initiative stand made 16 percent more likely to vote for him, 21 percent less likely to vote for him and 61 percent said it made no difference.