SALT LAKE CITY — Despite election results, which he said upheld the status quo, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah thinks change is coming.
Kirk Jowers said he thinks the changes will be forced by circumstances.
“The reason I think things will change is the problems have reached a point of no return,” Jowers said. “Crisis typically propels change.”
Jowers, a Harvard Law School grad who provided legal counsel for George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign, said this past election did reinforce Utah as a Republican stronghold. Presidential election results showed the Beehive State to be the reddest state in the nation, giving Mitt Romney his biggest margin of victory of any state in the union. Utah finished third in that same category in 2008.
Jowers is hesitant to point to any one factor in the reason President Barack Obama won re-election.
“It’s too simplistic to say it was the Hispanic vote, the mobilization of the African-American vote or the women’s vote. The fact is, certain Republican demographics are attracting an increasingly smaller percentage of the electorate,” Jowers said.
Given new microtargeting, Jowers said, strategists can more easily identify and target certain voting blocs of people.
“You can isolate a husband from his wife. Microtargeting lets you look at what their hobbies are, what kind of car and truck they drive and pretty much determine what party they are and what issues are important to them,” he said.
Jowers does not expect many changes in the political landscape of the Beehive State in the immediate future, but he said the national party has some soul-searching to do.
Jowers noted the GOP has lost five of the last six presidential elections. He said Bill Clinton came onto the scene in a similar circumstance and turned the future of the Democratic Party around.
“There are some obvious places to start. Immigration reform, rhetoric about women’s issues,” he said.
One state voting issue Jowers does not like in Utah is straight-ticket voting, which allows the voter to cast one vote for every candidate in one party, rather than go race-by-race through the ballot process.
“I’m opposed to straight-party voting. I think voting is such an important civic responsibility, and is such a sacrifice for candidates to put themselves out there, that both the voter and the candidate deserve to have each button pushed, even if you go down the line. Everyone deserves to have that moment of reflection in that capacity,” Jowers said.
National results aside, the big GOP vote locally made the re-election of Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Salt Lake, particularly noteworthy, Jowers said. He called the veteran Democrat’s win over Mia Love in the newly created fourth congressional district “beyond impressive.”
Despite the imbalance, Jowers said Matheson seems less affected by other candidates than other politicians.
“He is a bit of an enigma in that he is not impacted by other people’s coattails, nor does he pull anyone with him,” Jowers said.
The U of U director noted that both Romney and Gov. Gary Herbert carried Salt Lake County, which has become a Democratic stronghold, but Matheson carried the county.