Editor's Note: On Tuesday, Utah voters will head to the polls to vote in their state's primary, and although Mitt Romney has already virtually secured the GOP nomination, all eyes will be on Sen. Orrin Hatch, who faces a stiff competition from Tea Party challenger Dan Liljenquist. The contest is seen as a bellweather to gauge the Tea Party's strength, and a Tea Party upset would throw the GOP establishment into chaos. I asked Utah resident Ty Markham to explain the significance of the Hatch election and predict the results of the primary contest. Below is her response.
Jake Horowitz (JH): Discuss the meaning of Senator Orrin Hatch's primary battle with Tea Party candidate Liljenquist. Who do you predict will win?
Ty Markham (TM): The primary buzz is really only centered on whether Sen. Orrin Hatch will be ousted, like Sen. Bob Bennett was two years ago. It seems to be the only race that has garnered media attention here in Utah. After a long-sought-after debate by his primary opponent, Lillenquist, Hatch dropped 10 points in the polls.
Whether many will bother to get to the polls will depend upon their level of Tea Party fervor, or level of political activism, or perhaps whether they took their priesthood leaders seriously a few weeks ago when the letter was read from all LDS pulpits admonishing the saints to participate in caucuses and to get out and vote in upcoming primaries and general election.
How many will bother to do the first two is anyone's guess, but surely, Mormons will get the message that they should not shirk their civic duties. This may mean that they will pay more attention to the issues, to the candidates, and actually vote. Or it may mean that many will simply go through the motions without doing their homework, and merely mark the box next to "Straight Party" ticket, which in Utah, usually means the red "R."
This is not to say that there are no Mormon progressives in Utah. There are many who prefer to stay in the closet, but who, nonetheless, would not miss a chance to cast their ballot (in secret, of course). My guess is that, if you stopped a representative sample of people on the street and asked if they remembered that today is the primary election, the vast majority would admit (or not) that they didn't.
Utah is one of those states where conservatives can afford to be complacent about voting because their candidate has historically been a 'shoe-in'. And where progressives are discouraged from making the effort because their candidate seems always to lose. I keep wondering if enough complacent conservatives will provide enough hope in progressives that they will turn out in great numbers and turn the tables in Utah.