Readers can expect to be inundated by the media over the next eight months with some version of the following: “For the first time since 1892, we have major party presidential candidates who both served as president prior to the election.” So we are getting a head start with what this means for Utah politics.

A national Deseret News/HarrisX poll revealed that 38% of Republican voters believe Donald Trump reflects their moral values “a great deal” and 41% said “some extent.” It was almost a mirror image for Democratic voters and their opinion of Joe Biden reflecting their values (43%/41%). What do Utahns think?

Pignanelli: “People see Trump draining the swamp, bucking the system. That is what is winning voters.” — Yemi Arunsi, Davis County Republican Party, Hinckley Report

Voting for president this year will be a hard swallow for most Utahns, regardless of political affiliation. We maintain a deep commitment to personal ethics and character. We expect it of ourselves and especially elected officials. This is a substantial reason Trump performed the lowest in Utah among the Super Tuesday states. Biden — no citadel of virtue — would have faced similar challenges if actual competition existed.

We all have that zany friend or relative who says what they are thinking, even when not socially appropriate. While publicly horrified, we may agree with some outbursts and enjoy unfiltered honesty. This explains the poll results.

In polite conversations, many express concerns with Trump’s statements. But in an anonymous survey, Republicans struggle to deny his bold stances — tough on China, building the wall, “draining the swamp,” etc. Biden supporters might be embarrassed by his plentiful gaffes yet appreciate stands on student loan debt and social causes.

With these presumptive nominees, Republicans and Democrats are overlooking (while gulping) character flaws of their candidate to achieve desired policy outcomes.

Related
Poll: Most GOP voters say Trump reflects their values
Poll: Voters have serious, and totally different, concerns about a Trump or Biden reelection

Webb: My own moral and political values, and many of my public policy priorities, are generally not reflected in either Biden or Trump. I’ve basically given up on this presidential race and on the federal government, overall, to solve America’s most pressing problems.

Political stalemate is going to continue and, worse, big government is going to get bigger under either president; federal deficit spending is going to expand; the serious risk to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and federal highway funding, among other things, will grow over the next decade as the federal debt bomb nears the point of explosion.

Skyrocketing federal debt is identified by many of the nation’s best policy analysts as the country’s greatest threat. Neither Biden nor Trump show any inclination to deal with it.

Therefore, as Utah policymakers attempt to ensure that future generations enjoy stability, progress and great quality of life, they must plan for the day when a broke and broken federal government cannot pay its bills and investors refuse to buy its debt. Among the first expenses to be cut will be federal money passed through to the states.

Utah is good at planning ahead. But Utah leaders cannot say they are prepared for the future until the state has a real plan to deal with a federal government that, in the next several years, will renege on many of its current commitments.

I have long been a proponent of balanced federalism. Federal bankruptcy is going to force a painful rebalancing in the federal system. Let’s get ready for it.

The same poll also showed that 63% of voters “have doubts about Biden’s mental fitness,” while 51% share the same doubts about Trump. Utah has one of the lowest rates of dementia in the country, so how does this concern impact local deliberations?

Pignanelli: Utah’s leaders reflect the youngest state in the nation (median age of 30.7). Gov. Spencer Cox is 48, Congressman Blake Moore is 43, first-term Speaker Mike Schultz is 48. Utah voters favor those less long in the tooth. Sen. Mitt Romney mirrored what most Utahns are thinking when he encouraged Biden and Trump to step aside and let the next generation lead. This emotion may cause small movements toward viable alternative presidential candidates.

Webb: Whether lucid or confused, Biden wants bigger government, more spending and higher taxes. Trump is too tempestuous and undisciplined for anyone to predict the nature of his presidency — other than that, it will be chaotic.

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Comments

Turnout for the 2024 GOP precinct caucuses was abysmally low. Some pundits are predicting problems for local Republicans as a result. Is this a valid conjecture?

Pignanelli: The caucus/convention system requires attendance on a weeknight and on Saturdays, but very few races are determined by the outcome. So, participation will continue to drop while primaries — elections of consequence in our deeply red state — will remain popular. Unless changes are made, the party structure but not candidates will suffer.

Webb: The Utah GOP will be just fine and will dominate Utah politics this year and into the future as long as the party and its policymakers are not captured by the extremes of the party.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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