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Rolly: Lee trying to reverse his negative image

By PAUL ROLLY

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Feb 21 2014 05:53 pm • Last Updated Feb 21 2014 05:53 pm

Sen. Mike Lee recently sent an email to constituents through the Utah Republican Party that appeared to be begging for attention.

He included links to op-eds he has written, his actions on a Senate committee and speeches and interviews.

At a glance

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At least this time he didn’t ask for money. Those emails always begin with "Dear Patriot." This begins with "Friend."

He asks constituents to click onto his proposal "that seeks to affirm religious liberty in the military. He tells constituents to listen to his interview with KSL radio host Doug Wright. He wants you to read his op-ed: "The Farm Bill vs. America," to read his speech about reforming higher education, his op-ed about creating jobs, see his performance on the Judiciary Committee where he badgered U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, watch his response to the State of the Union Address and read his resolution "denouncing the president’s coercion of states into adopting Common Core standards."

He may be getting desperate.

Lee is not up for re-election until 2016, but the Utah Voter Poll conducted by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University suggests he may be in trouble.

The poll, conducted Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, asked 1,008 people to rate several public office-holders as well as their opinions on various issues.

Of all the public officials listed in the survey, Lee is the most unpopular.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents gave Lee an unfavorable rating, with a whopping 38 percent tapping him with a "very unfavorable" rank. The other 15 percent had just a "somewhat unfavorable" impression. Twenty-five percent responded with "very favorable" and 16 percent said "somewhat favorable," for a total of 41 percent on the plus side.

His numbers were similar in the poll the center conducted last October. They were better, however, in the poll conducted last June.


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Center director Quinn Monson said the rising unfavorable numbers coincide with Lee’s connection to the budget fights and ultimate government shutdown last fall.

He said the most striking thing about Lee’s numbers is that he is a polarizing figure. His very unfavorable numbers are high compared to other officials, but his very favorable numbers are high.

"Respondents either really like him or really don’t like him," Monson said. "Those who really like him generally identify with the tea party."

Monson said Lee has attempted of late to be more conciliatory and convey a less extreme persona. But those efforts haven’t gotten the attention his actions attracted during the government shutdown fiasco.

Hence, his email through the party begging for attention.

While Lee might look at the results of the poll with chagrin, Gov. Gary Herbert should be pretty happy about it.

Sixty-five percent gave Herbert a favorable rating (29 percent very favorable), while only 29 percent gave House Speaker Becky Lockhart a favorable nod (7 percent very favorable) Lockhart got a 33 percent unfavorable vote (14 percent very unfavorable), but the largest voting bloc in her column was "no opinion," at 38 percent.

Speculation is rampant that Lockhart plans to challenge Herbert for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2016, so the poll shows she has some work to do to improve her name recognition.

Another telling part of the poll was the question comparing Herbert’s job performance with that of the Legislature. Seventy percent liked the job the governor was doing, compared to 54 percent approval for the Legislature.

That survey was conducted right after Lockhart blasted Herbert in her opening day remarks at the Legislature for his suggestion he might approve of taking Medicaid expansion money from the federal government.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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