Lots of Utahans Still Love Bush

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Lots of Utahans Still Love Bush

Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:00 pm

From The New York Times:

June 4, 2006
As President's Poll Numbers Fall, Many in Utah Stand by the Man

PROVO, Utah — Here in what may be the reddest city in the reddest of states, where Democrats sometimes gather like lost souls at the one Starbucks, most people are standing by President Bush.

When he gives a speech that angers voters or brings ridicule from other parts of the country, people here pick up different messages. They might break with Mr. Bush on the war in Iraq or on illegal immigration, but not with the man himself.

"When I watch him, I see a man with his heart in the right place," said Delia Randall, a 22-year-old mother from Provo, the hub of a county that gave Senator John Kerry just 11 percent of the presidential vote in 2004. "I like George Bush because he is God fearing, and that's how a lot of people in this area feel."

These voters are among the committed Bush supporters who are standing proudly by him as he tries to reverse the poll numbers that are sliding even in Utah, hang on to Republican control of Congress, revive his agenda and stabilize Iraq.

This core group is a highly concentrated version of the Bush base, one that appears to be motivated more by general principles and a comfort level with the president than by specific issues or political trends. They tend to be impressed by Mr. Bush's faith and convinced that he understands their lives and values. They like what they see as his muscular foreign policy.

These supporters are mostly clustered in places like Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, the only three states where Mr. Bush's job approval rating is at or above 50 percent, and in smaller pockets in areas like the suburbs of Birmingham, Ala.; northwest Georgia; and the Florida Panhandle.

"I'm against the war in Iraq — and what happened with Hurricane Katrina, well, it was a failure by everybody," said Ron Craft, a sales manager in Provo who said he was a devout Mormon and a strong conservative who considered himself independent politically. "I tend to judge a person by their character. And President Bush reminds me of President Reagan. He's a man of principle."

All of the administration's perceived failures, including the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina and the budget deficit, go through a different filter in these Bush strongholds. Sounding a familiar theme, Mr. Craft said he was distrustful of news media portrayals of Mr. Bush because "they concentrate too much on the negative and certain small things."

The redemptive narrative that Mr. Bush has often told about his life — a frequent drinker who found God and his political purpose in early middle-age — has greater resonance here than in other parts of the country. And people say they are willing to overlook major problems, or not blame Mr. Bush for trouble spots, because they like his personality.

"He's strong, and he doesn't waver," said Jaren Olsen, 18, a freshman at Brigham Young, the nation's largest religiously affiliated private university, who is from Albany. "I like that he is for the family, that marriage should only be between a man and woman. And the war, we need to finish what we started."

Another student at Brigham Young, Danielle Pulsipher, a junior, offered blanket approval of the president. Asked to name which of his actions as president she liked most, she was hard-pressed to answer.

"I'm not sure of anything he's done, but I like that he's religious — that's really important," Ms. Pulsipher said.

Not that Mr. Bush is immune from national political trends even among the most faithful.

A poll released in May by SurveyUSA, conducted in Utah for KSL-TV, found that 51 percent of respondents approved of the job Mr. Bush was doing, with 46 percent disapproving. The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points. The firm, through its other polling, found that the only other state above 50 percent was Idaho, at 52; in Wyoming, it was 50 percent. Mr. Bush's approval rating has dropped as low as 23 percent in Rhode Island and New York.

In Utah, Mr. Bush took 72 percent of the presidential vote in 2004. His support has dropped since then, according to polls, because many conservatives are upset over immigration and, to a lesser extent, the expansion of the federal government.

"When you get down to almost 50 percent in Utah, that's the canary-in-the-mine-shaft of all warnings for Republicans," said Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young. The walls of Mr. Patterson's office bear a headline from the last time a Democrat won Utah in a presidential race — it was Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1964.

Still, because voters in the state are strongly religious, with a huge majority belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and strongly Republican, the well of support for Mr. Bush is deeper here than in almost any other place in the country.

Religion and political views go hand in hand here, voter surveys show. The state has the nation's highest birth rate and the youngest population. Voters tend to be better educated than in many states, and about 60,000 people a year go on Mormon missions overseas, giving them a different view of the world.

In Provo, a prosperous city of just over 100,000 people built around Brigham Young, about 8 of every 10 voters are registered Republicans. Last year, Provo was rated the most conservative city in America by the nonpartisan Bay Area Center for Voter Research.

"This is a community committed to faith, family and freedom, and that translates to consistent popularity for George Bush," said Mayor Lewis K. Billings of Provo.

"People here like so much of what George Bush has done," Mr. Billings said. "I think he's got support on almost everything — except immigration."

In interviews, voters uniformly said they were standing by the president, even as they listed things they disagreed with.

"I like his honesty," said Allison Wilkey, a mother of three.

But the same religious view that guides the dominant political strain in Utah is leading others to question Mr. Bush.

In the church wards here, people are constantly reminded of the virtues of thrift, balanced budgets and family-based decision making. The record federal deficit, the largest expansion of the federal government in a generation and the intrusion of Washington in education through the No Child Left Behind law are often cited by people who say the country is going in the wrong direction.

"There is this puritanical strain when it comes to thrift here, and one of the dominant themes is to get out of debt," said Joseph A. Cannon, the chairman of the State Republican Party. "So people wonder why we, the Republicans, control every branch of government and yet we can't stay out of debt."

Democrats say no state has had a bigger swing in opinion polls this year than Utah, with Mr. Bush's approval rating falling 15 points this spring. Wayne Holland, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Utah, said residents here were "more trusting, more patient with a president, but when it finally starts to go south, it really drops."

Even so, many Democrats in Utah say they keep their politics to themselves.

"We don't talk politics because everyone is so one-sided," said Sarah Rueckert, a mother of three and a Mormon who just moved back to Utah after 10 years of living in places like Chicago, Portland and San Francisco. "They're all pro-Bush."

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Post by Werner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:23 pm

An educational Marshall Plan for Utah?
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:49 pm

My only regret is that the state went for Bush by only 75%.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:51 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:My only regret is that the state went for Bush by only 75%.

That was their privilege.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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