Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
What’s Sen. Mike Lee up to? He’s just being Mike Lee

< Previous Page

He dismissed the criticism, saying it’s just Utahns’ passive aggressiveness. "We in Utah don’t like confrontation."

Lee’s former state director, Dan Hauser, has taken to Twitter and Facebook to do just that, confronting critics such as Weiler, calling them "political opportunists" who are "piling onto the senator because other Republicans in Washington, D.C., torpedoed his strategy."

At a glance

Join us for a Trib Talk

Monday at 12:15 p.m. » Jennifer Napier-Pearce talks with Mike Lee’s former chief of staff, Spencer Stokes, conservative blogger Holly Richardson and Tribune Washington correspondents Matt Canham and Thomas Burr about what motivates Utah’s junior senator and what the recent debacle will mean for Lee’s political future. Join the discussion at sltrib.com.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Hauser did say Lee could have improved his communication with "thought leaders" in Utah, while Lee said he "made every effort to" reach out to people in the state. That included a town hall tour of rural Utah, where night after night he was greeted with standing-room-only crowds of ardent supporters who cheered him on for fighting — even if victory was unlikely.

For some regular voters, Lee’s anti-establishment efforts are what’s needed.

"When you go to Washington, you think you’re going to do good things, but you end up falling in line with the old guys who have been there for a long time — half their lives — and know the situation and how to work it. Lee hasn’t," said Zelma Jeppsen of Mantua, an independent voter who supported Lee in 2010.

Michelle L. King of the Cache Valley Tea Party remains a major supporter of Lee, particularly the senator’s skepticism toward government surveillance programs. She argues Lee deserves more time.

"I always expected it would be a long road. I knew he would not have a lot of help in the Senate," she said. "We need to be patient to see long-term change for the better."

Utah business leaders, a longtime force in the GOP, believe Lee is standing in the way of needed change on issues such as immigration and has hurt the economy with this strategy that led to the shutdown.

World Trade Center Utah President Lew Cramer was disappointed when Lee withdrew from immigration negotiations and then opposed legislation business leaders say they need to compete globally.

"You’ve got to be in the room to be a part of the game," Cramer said. "This nation is built on compromise. The Constitution was built on compromise. Marriage is built on compromise. Everybody can have principles, that’s terrific, but we need solutions."

story continues below
story continues below

Stokes said it is a systemic problem, in which a tea-party call for a far-more-limited government butts up against the desires of business leaders.

"He never had a relationship with the business community. There was nothing there to deteriorate," Stokes said. "Mike has been working to have a relationship with them, but this is a group of people who don’t want a relationship with Mike."

Waiting in the wings » Lee still has the tea party but is losing support outside of it. His popularity has plunged, with a recent poll by BYU political scientists measuring his approval rating at 40 percent, remarkably low for Utah.

Many view a proposed change in the state’s unique nominating system as a slap at the junior senator.

Organizers for Count My Vote, which is promoting a ballot proposal to replace the caucus and convention system with a primary, say their goal is more voter participation and not, in any way, a reaction to Lee. But some of those organizers confide that donors to their efforts see the proposed change as a way to defeat Lee in the long term, muting the effect of his tea party followers in GOP nomination fights.

Some ambitious young Republicans have circled Lee for some time with 2016 on their minds.

Leading the group is Thomas Wright, a former state party chairman, and Dan Liljenquist, a one-time state senator who challenged Hatch in 2012. Other candidates could emerge as well.

Liljenquist blasted Lee in his Deseret News column, saying the senator lost credibility in the shutdown fight.

Wright, who has stayed largely out of the fray, told The Tribune the senator’s strategy may have lasting results.

"I’m just as concerned about Obamacare as Senator Lee is, but he burned bridges, and when you burn bridges, you can’t bring results. Leaders are ultimately judged by their results."

Next Page >

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

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.