Well, Democrat Mike Weinholtz has closed 3 points towards GOP Gov. Gary Herbert among all Utahns, a just-completed Dan Jones & Associates poll shows, but it doesn’t matter.
A new UtahPolicy poll matching all of the official gubernatorial candidates this year shows Herbert has a 38-percentage point lead over the Democrat.
Jones finds that compared to a poll a month ago Weinholtz has closed a few percentage points, but in very Republican Utah it is way too little, too late.
Herbert – who raised around $1 million (half of it already spent) in a big fund-raiser Friday night – is well on his way to winning another four-year term – which will be his last, the governor says.
Already, some Republicans are looking to 2020 and an open governor’s seat to make their move into statewide politics.
In a surprise move, Herbert Friday morning decided to show up to a League of Cities and Towns convention debate with Weinholtz.
Weinholtz took out after Herbert on the federal lands issue, but the challenger will need a lot more fire if he hopes to burn Herbert even a little before the Nov. 8 election.
In his new survey, Jones finds that if the election were today:
- 62 percent of “likely” voters would pick Herbert.
- 24 percent say Weinholtz (which is about equal to the Democratic base in Utah).
- 3 percent favor Libertarian Brian Kamerath.
- 1 percent support former computer discount store owner "Superdell" Schanze.
- 2 percent like independent L.S. Brown.
- And 7 percent don’t know.
Admittedly, Herbert’s main challenge this year was supposed to be GOP archconservative Jonathan Johnson, a millionaire businessman who went after Herbert from the governor’s political right.
But Johnson stumbled several times – even though he bested Herbert with very conservative delegates in the state Republican convention.
And last June the governor destroyed Johnson in the closed, Republican-only primary election, 72-28 percent.
Weinholtz has put more than $2 million into his race but hasn’t moved the needle significantly against Herbert since last winter.
And while Weinholtz, an articulate speaker, looked in a Utah Taxpayers Association debate last spring that he might make some dents in Herbert this summer and fall, it hasn’t proven to be so.
In the Friday debate, Herbert even opened himself up for his challenger when he said he would be available anytime to meet with local officials.
That naturally led into Herbert’s greatest mistake this election: The secret recording of the governor meeting with big-time lobbyists in the exclusive Alta Club saying he would be “Available Jones” to talk about their concerns privately, as he went about seeking campaign donations.
But Weinholtz either didn’t see the opening or decided not to take it. The Available Jones door closed with no comment from the Democrat.
Herbert told his monthly KUED press conference that he would debate Weinholtz maybe two times before the election.
Herbert changed his schedule to make the Friday debate – clearly a favorable audience -- after being criticized by League officials publically for trying to sidestep it.
Later this month is the Utah Debate Commission’s gubernatorial debate.
That makes two, and it’s unlikely Weinholtz, who asked for five general election debates, will not share a stage with Herbert again after that.
But as Herbert’s new poll numbers show, it really doesn’t matter, unless something catastrophic happens in the Herbert campaign.
Some of Jones’ demographic numbers:
- 87 percent of Utah Republicans favor the governor.
- Herbert even gets 12 percent of the Democratic vote.
- The real killer for Weinholtz are the political independents.
For a Democrat to win a statewide race in Utah, he or she must get more than 60 percent – maybe even 70 percent – of that voting bloc.
Jones finds that Herbert has 49 percent support among political independents – whom identify with no political party -- Weinholtz only 34 percent.
The oddity – 5 percent of independents said they favor Schanze. Considering his strange history with legal problems, what is that about?
Weinholtz is a Utah transplant, not a member of the LDS Church.
And Utahns have elected only Mormons for years to the governorship.
Jones finds that 81 percent of “very active” Mormons favor Herbert, only 8 percent like Weinholtz.
Jones polled 605 “likely” voters from Sept. 1-9. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.98 percent.