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Final thoughts about an astonishing election

FILE - Bill Clinton, in foreground, watches the second presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in St. Louis.
FILE - Bill Clinton, in foreground, watches the second presidential debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in St. Louis.
John Locher, Associated Press

The most remarkable election in generations comes clanking to an end on Tuesday. Don't worry, your columnists will have plenty to write about postelection (as if you were concerned), but this is our last chance to opine before final voting occurs.

Who wins the White House, the big races and control of Congress? Any chance Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College, or the election is thrown to the House of Representatives?

Pignanelli: “The 2016 presidential election is causing anxiety in more than half the country’s population and puts it in line with other major life stressors, such as the economy, money or work.”— Dr. Lynn Bufka, American Psychological Association

This is the country's weirdest election and predictions are often futile. Writers of fiction would not dare suggest a storyline where the control of the U.S. government hinged on revelations from a computer seized during an investigation for pedophilic conduct.

In this peculiar environment, Clinton wins. Unlike the 2008 contest, the result breeds relief, not joy.

The eccentric involvement by the FBI (through formal announcements and leaks) will encourage Republicans frustrated with their choices to finally cast their ballots. This will impact federal races, perhaps an even split in the U.S. Senate. It may also tilt key congressional contests.

This abnormal election will generate other unusual results. Evan McMullin may win the presidential contest in Utah. Actual voting in the battleground states could defy polling (a real probability) and create a scenario in which no candidate can claim the 270 delegates or the winner of the popular vote fails in the Electoral College.

Some may smirk, but I boldly predict that before the Electoral College meets in December, there will be another unexpected twist in the election. Maybe aliens disclose their super PAC.

Webb: My predictions: Clinton wins the presidency. Trump wins Utah by a few points. Republicans barely maintain control of the U.S. Senate but easily dominate U.S. House races. Republicans maintain the Utah governorship, other statewide offices and all congressional seats. Democrats pick up a few legislative seats, but not enough to change legislative dynamics. Ben McAdams is re-elected as Salt Lake County mayor, the only real bright spot for Democrats.

What were the positive and negative features of the Utah races and candidates?

Pignanelli: Utahns of all political stripes can be proud. Despite overwhelming odds, Democrats produced great candidates who fought hard. Equally important, many Republican incumbents took nothing for granted. Especially noteworthy is the gubernatorial battle. Democrat Mike Weinholtz threw massive personal resources to ensure there was a choice. Gov. Gary Herbert never let down and ran like he was behind.

Minority Leader Brian King and legislative Democrats shrewdly targeted resources, scaring many of their Republican colleagues. Speaker Greg Hughes and his leadership team responded with tactical ferocity.

Our state often suffers from insulting claims that we are boring. Another scandal-free election demonstrates the advantages of enduring such accusations.

Webb: Democrats put up good candidates and fought hard. Some GOP congressional incumbents had to raise more money, do more advertising and run harder than they have in the past. Weinholtz’s desperate mailer linking Herbert/Trump/Vladimir Putin/Mormon missionaries was a bizarre Hail Mary that hurt more than helped.

What are your personal reflections on the election of 2016?

Pignanelli: Voting for president is a very personal decision for Americans. So this turbulent season is causing anxiety.

But America is undergoing a major shift in political dynamics, compounded by demographics and technology. Although it's painful to be participants, soon we will appreciate the opportunity to have witnessed history.

Webb: I’m obviously relieved it’s over. The national political party nomination processes that produced Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are clearly broken and need to be fixed.

In Utah, Republicans also face repair work on their party. Republican candidates won despite GOP dysfunction. The Utah party has lost the confidence (and financial support) of mainstream and moderate Republicans, including most opinion leaders. So a big task lies ahead.

In Utah, we will get back to normal after the election. Normal, in Utah, means moving ahead, solving problems, getting things done. Unfortunately, Washington will also get back to normal — and normal inside the Beltway is gridlock, dysfunction and contentiousness. The Trump/right wing of the GOP will fight mainstream Republicans, while epic battles between Republicans and the White House will continue or get worse.

With divided government, compromise and cooperation are required to address the nation’s difficult problems. But the hateful, spiteful Washington climate means nothing will get done.

After Tuesday, everyone should take a break, decompress and heal: Read a good book, go for a walk in the autumn leaves, play with children or grandchildren, focus on work, school, relationships. Don’t read social media or newspaper comments. Provide a helping hand to someone who needs it. Forget politics for a while.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: