Utah State University Political Science Professor Mike Lyons was a guest on KVNU’s Crosstalk show Thursday and was asked about several political issues facing the state and the country.
<strong>On Utah’s gubernatorial race:</strong>
A Democrat has a chance to become the next Utah governor, according to Lyons. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon announced this week that he will seek the governors office and Lyons says Corroon is a popular, highly capable, and moderate candidate. Lyons says the fact that Governor Gary Herbert inherited the position, moving up when former Governor Jon Huntsman left to become Ambassador to China, places him in a weaker position than an ordinary incumbent. “We don’t know a whole lot about how effectively Governor Herbert will campaign,” Lyons said. “He may prove to be stronger than people might guess, or he might prove to be relatively ineffective.” Lyons believes that because of those unknowns, the race for governor this fall should be very interesting. “So there’s a great deal of uncertainty here about how this race will play out. We know more about Peter Corroon, actually, than we do about the governor at this point. But Corroon is a formidable challenger and I do think he has a chance of capturing the office.” Lyons says this is the first time a Democrat has had a serious chance to become governor of Utah since Ted Wilson ran unsuccessfully against former Governor Norm Bangerter in the early 1980s. Lyons expects Democrats to rally behind him and put a lot of the party’s financial resources into the campaign.
<strong>On President Obama’s first year in office:</strong>
It’s been almost a year since President Barack Obama took office and Lyons says he would give the President a grade of B-minus or perhaps a C-plus for his performance so far. Lyons says Obama is articulate and intelligent, but he has let the Congress take the lead in creating a health care reform bill and because it has become very contentious this has damaged the president. The result is going to be a bill that won’t make any interest group very happy. Even so, Lyons says once the bill has been signed into law it will free the President to concentrate on what American people seem to be most concerned with: the economy. Lyons says Obama needs to demonstrate to people that he is working hard to get the unemployment rate down, get the values of 401Ks and other retirement plans up and get the housing market back on track.
<strong>On the Tea Party Coalitions:</strong>
Will the “tea party coalitions” that have been active during the past year have a lot of influence on the 2010 elections? Lyons says they may influence some Utah elections but nationally he does not expect that to happen. Lyons says he does expect Republicans to win a lot of congressional seats and governorships. He says there’s been a lot of anger in the country for years and the people seem to take their anger out on the party in power. “The splintering, the ideological and partisan polarization we see in the political system, has been a very unhealthy thing,” Lyons said. “So people perceive that there are problems. “They respond to the problems by failing to support any form of compromise by polarizing ideologically, and in other ways, and that polarization becomes a reason the system is unable to respond to problems. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy on some levels.” Lyons does not expect a health care reform bill’s passage to influence the election much one way or another. He says the number one focus in 2010 will be the economy.