When Mitt Romney walked out onto the stage at the Utah Republican convention yesterday, the boos were loud and sustained. Hearing the booing, Romney, ever the adroit politician, said "What do you think of Biden's first hundred days?" But when he tried launching into his prepared speech, the booing didn't stop. He chastised them, "Aren't you embarrassed?" They weren't and it wasn't until the head of the state GOP, Derek Brown, told them to behave and show some respect that they quieted down. At that point Romney launched into cheap Republican talking points the 2,100 Republican Party delegates had heard on right wing media a million times.
In 2016, Trump wasn't especially popular in Utah. He came in third in the GOP caucuses:
Ted Cruz- 122,567 (69.2%)
John Kasich- 29,773 (16.8%)
Trump- 24,864 (14.0%)
It might be worth noting, even if just parenthetically, that on the same day, Bernie beat Hillary in the Democratic caucuses with 61,333 votes (79.3%). So... yeah, more than twice as many Utahans voted for Bernie than for Trumpanzee that day.
By the time the general rolled around, Trump was still not what most Utah voted wanted. He won the state's 6 electoral votes-- but with a 45.54% plurality.
Trump- 515,231 (45.54%)
Hillary- 310,676 (27.46%)
Evan McMullin- 243,690 (21.54%)
Most Utahans didn't want him going to the White House. Hillary actually won Salt Lake (175,863 to 138,043) and Summit (10,503 to 7,333) counties and essentially tied him in Grand County, Trump winning by 15 votes.
Two years later, Romney ran for the open U.S. Senate seat and there was never any question about him losing. But what's interesting is how much better he did than Trump had. Romney won with 69.6% of the vote, more than 20 points better than Trump. And 665,215 Utahans came out to vote for him-- about 150,000 more than voted for Trump!
Romney was pissed off yesterday. "You can boo all you like. I’ve been a Republican all of my life. My dad was the governor of Michigan and I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012."
Romney wasn’t the only recipient of boos from the crowd. Gov. Spencer Cox also caught a measure of disapproval.
“I know some of you hate me for some of the decisions I had to make,” said Cox as he took the stage to a smattering of boos from delegates upset with COVID-19 restrictions. “But I want to point out that some of you haven’t been paying attention.”
Cox touted the state’s rapidly improving economy following the COVID-related downturn, noting Utah was one of two states to see net job growth during the pandemic. He also said the state did not go as far as some other states with virus-related restrictions.
“We banned government vaccine passports,” said Cox to cheers, referencing a bill passed during the 2021 Utah Legislature. But that bill only blocked the state government from requiring vaccines. Private businesses can still require vaccinations for customers.
“We’ve also had zero restrictions on religious gatherings since October, and after this school year ends, there won’t be any more masks in schools,” said Cox.
Sen. Mike Lee drew a standing ovation as he took the podium and, hand on his heart, he cheered delegates in attendance “for taking action! Thank you!,” he said, calling their presence “an act of faith in the future.”
In a hardline speech, he blasted Democrats and invoked the U.S. Constitution and Founding Fathers, whom he praised for constraining government power on behalf of the people. He underscored their guarantees of unfettered gun ownership and limited intrusion in the lives of private citizens.
Quoting George Washington, Lee said U.S. exceptionalism rested in faith in its citizenry, not the government. “It means freedom,” he said, adding that Democrats hated Republicans and decrying their new proposals under the Biden administration.
“Their whole agenda is wrapped up around one idea,” Lee said, “unquestionable trust in government.”
He also assailed proposals to increase the number of judges on the U.S. Supreme Court as “a bone-headed idea,” saying it “would destroy judicial independence.” New Democratic efforts to reform U.S. elections, Lee added said, were a move “to destroy local control.”
“There are some truths we can never betray,” Lee told the crowd. “We are the stewards of our own destiny.” He said Biden did not share that view.
“He wants us dependent on government,” Lee said, adding the president also wanted “to extend lockdowns. We want to end them!” The senator quipped that the Centers for Disease Control-- responsible for guiding the nation’s health policies during the pandemic-- “was less about disease and more about control.”
...Congressman Chris Stewart called the Biden administration’s approach “radical socialism,” criticizing its leaders-- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said “kind of sucks”-- and he singled out the New Green Deal, proposed in some Democratic circles to address the climate change emergency.
“You’d think they’d run out of dumb ideas, but they don’t,” Stewart said, to cheers from the audience. He then accused that the media of intentional bias, echoing a common theme struck by former President Donald Trump.
“They are actively deceptive,” he said. “They lie to you.”
Congressman Burgess Owens [the GOP's token black person] offered deep gratitude for Utah’s focus on family, sense of volunteerism and respect for racial diversity. “We’re the least racist state in the country and the least racist country in the world,” he said.
“We do not apologize for who we are,” said Owens. “We love family, God, country and we respect women. That is who are.”
A few hours after Romney's speech, the delegates had a chance to censure him-- a motion that narrowly lost, 798 to 711. If he runs again, Romney will be on the ballot in 2024, a presidential year when Trump will no doubt encourage a primary opponent against him.
Also yesterday, Texans went to the polls in the 6th congressional district, mostly south and between Ft Worth and Dallas. Trump-- hoping to back a winner-- had endorsed Susan Wright, the wife of anti-mask COVID-victim Ron Wright. Widows win these kinds of races and she did... with a scant 19.2% of the vote in the crowded, confused 23 candidate jungle primary, where 50% was needed to win the seat. Gov. Greg Abbott will set the runoff "no earlier than May 24." While Republican governors are setting runoffs as much as 6 months in the future to keep the congressional margins for Democrats in the House down, Abbott will no doubt call this one for May 24. But it is unclear this morning who Wright will be running against. Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey has 10,851 votes (13.8%) to Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez's 10,497 votes (13.4%).
All the Republicans garnered 62% of the vote and all the Democrats just 37%, and sign for Democrats eager to turn suburban Texas districts blue. Still, the biggest source of votes in the district came from suburban Tarrant County, where the result was very different from the 3 politically backward rural counties.
Tarrant County (suburban)
Susan Wright (R)- 9,165 (17.4%)
Jana Lynne Sanchez (D)- 8,284 (15.7%)
Shawn Lassiter (D)- 5,965 (11.3%)
Ellis County (mostly rural)
Jake Ellzey (R)- 5,431 (26.0%)
Susan Wright (R)- 4,498 (21.5%)
Brian Harrison (R)- 3,996 (19.1%)
Navarro County (rural)
Susan Wright- 1,389 (29.5%)
Brian Harrison- 920 (19.6%)
Jake Ellzey- 688 (14.6%)
There were 3 other Republicans who made national news during the campaign-- Michael Wood, the anti-Trump candidate who was backed by Adam Kinzinger and the Dallas Morning News, and who came in 9th with only 2,503 votes (3.2%); Trumpist crackpot professional wrester Dan Rodimer who was endorsed by Paul Gosar and who came in 11th with 2.7%; and Sery Kim who had a minor job in the Trump regime but who made some blatantly racist remarks and lost whatever support she had and came in 14th with 1.1% of the vote.
The NY Times and conventional Beltway media are trying to look at this through a lens that shows a win for Trump. It wasn't. Widows win their husbands' seats in the South and-- I know this is totally politically incorrect to say but-- most rural voters are really, really dumb.