By now, the Democratic plan of attack for 2010 is clear: Define the GOP as a party that can’t be trusted to govern, reach out to moderate Republicans and run hard to the center.
If there’s an extreme test case for that approach, it might be the Utah governor’s race, where Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is attempting to jump through a narrow opening created by divisions within the Republican Party and financial disputes surrounding acting Gov. Gary Herbert’s term, and become the first Democrat to win the state’s highest office in 30 years.
In the process, Corroon’s casting himself as a “proven” fiscal conservative and aligning himself with a pair of his state’s best-known Republicans: former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who left office in 2009 to become ambassador to China, and Sen. Bob Bennett, who was the first incumbent to lose reelection this year when delegates to a state GOP convention denied him the Republican nomination in May.
“I think Sen. Bennett is one of the most intelligent people I’ve met,” Corroon told POLITICO. “He may have been in the Senate too long, but he did a very good job representing Utah.”
Noting the three-term senator’s history of delivering federal support for the state, Corroon said: “If Mike Lee wins, I’m not sure where we’re going to be headed.”
Lee, an attorney with a slight political resume and support from tea-party-allied groups like FreedomWorks, is heavily favored to win the general election against Democrat Sam Granato. But the Senate race could color Utah’s broader political landscape in a way that’s useful to Corroon.