Utahns, overall, are split in their opinions of the kind of job U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney are doing, a recent UtahPolicy.com poll finds.
Neither Republican is up for re-election this year: Lee runs for a third, six-year term in 2022 and Romney faces his first re-election in 2024.
But a dive into the demographics of the Y2 Analytics survey finished last month shows the challenges the two face within their own Republican Party -- or, rather, the challenge Romney faces.
Unless a lot of Utah Republicans and conservatives change their minds about Romney -- and that likely depends on the political/personal fate of President Donald Trump come 2024 -- then the man who voted to impeach Trump will find his GOP re-nomination very much in doubt.
Among all Utahns, 46 percent said they “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of the job Lee is doing as Utah’s senior senator. The same number, 46 percent, “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of Lee. Seven percent don’t know.
Romney’s job approval is about the same -- 50 percent approve of him, 49 percent disapprove, with only 1 percent not having an opinion.
But look at these partisan numbers:
-- 77 percent of those who said they are “strong” Republicans approve of the job Lee is doing.
-- By comparison, 84 percent of “strong” Republicans DISAPPROVE of the job Romney is doing. And these are folks of his own political party.
-- When we look at those who said they are “not very strong” Republican, Romney rebounds a bit. Forty-five percent of these folks approve of Romney’s job actions, while 55 percent disapprove of him.
-- Lee’s approval rating is 56-34 percent among those who said they are “not very strong” Republicans.
Conservatives are even harder on Romney.
-- Among those who said they are “strong” conservatives, Romney’s approval rating is a very sad 8-92 percent, or nine of 10 say they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of him -- with 81 percent saying they “strongly” disapprove of him.
UtahPolicy.com has reported before that Lee and his top supporters have been working behind the scenes for several years trying to get rid of SB54, the 2014 law that gives candidates two routes to their party’s nomination -- the traditional caucus/delegate/convention route and gathering voter signatures.
As you see by the above numbers, Lee is loved by hard-core Republicans and conservatives, who make up the great majority of each election cycles 4,000 state GOP delegates.
Without the signature route, any Lee intra-party challenger would have a hard time beating him in convention -- or even coming out of a convention to face him in a closed GOP primary election.
Romney, of course, has just the opposite problem. By gathering signatures -- which he likely could get rather easily because he would have the campaign funds to pay for gatherers -- he could bypass the convention and get on the primary ballot.
But even there Romney could face a serious Republican challenge from his political right.
Yes, among “not very strong” Republicans Romney’s job approval today is 45-55 percent. But more than half of those folks still disapprove of the job he’s doing -- which is mainly defined as a steady critic of Trump.
As mentioned above, 84 percent of “strong” Republicans -- who likely would vote in the closed party primary -- disapprove of the job Romney is doing.
How can this change in just four years, when Romney next faces voters should he run again?
Well, Trump could be disavowed by many Utah Republicans.
Assuming Trump loses Tuesday (he is almost assured of winning Utah, but is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in most of the swing states needed to win the Electoral College), he may well face various criminal charges in some of his past business dealings, as investigations are ongoing.
Should Trump face huge fines and/or jail time, some Utah Republicans could turn against him and Romney’s criticism of Trump today could be forgiven or set aside.
But if Trump remains a real political force inside the national and Utah Republican parties, then Romney’s political future may well be dim here, as the poll shows.
Romney’s job approval has dipped a bit since earlier this year, a June Y2 survey finds.
But he is still well-liked among true independents and Democrats, both “strong,” “not so strong” and “lean” varieties.
However, Romney has to win the GOP nomination in 2024 if he is to win re-election, and that could be a real challenge if his job approval ratings among his own party members doesn’t improve.
Y2 polled 1,095 likely voters statewide in late August and early September, the margin of error being plus or minus 3.0 percent.