Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s popularity takes big hit back home over shutdown debacle

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 10:21 EDT
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Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is in hot water with his constituents over the role he played in the shutdown of the federal government, which was engineered by far-right conservatives in a vain attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare.

According to Talking Points Memo, both the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal carried stories on Wednesday reporting that Lee’s popularity has taken a sharp hit in the wake of the shutdown fiasco, leading some Republicans to talk of fielding a primary opponent for the erstwhile tea party darling.

The Post claimed that for many years, Utah has been represented in the Senate by pragmatic, business-minded Republicans whose ideology was tempered by an interest in keeping the machine of government operational. Lee, on the other hand, has angered longtime party stalwarts and supporters by following Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on what many saw as a fool’s errand, the federal shutdown and the threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

President A. Scott Anderson of Utah’s Zions Bank — founded by Mormonism’s spiritual leader, Brigham Young — told the Post that Lee’s no-compromise form of governing is bad for business.

“I think people admire him for sticking to his guns and principles, but I think there are growing frustrations,” he said. “If things are to happen, you can’t just stick to your principles. You have to make things work. You’ve got to be practical.”

Brigham Young University pollster Quin Monson told the Journal that Lee has possibly set himself up to face a primary challenger in the next election cycle, saying, “Lee looks vulnerable to a challenge from within his party, but the real danger could be a challenge in a general election from the right kind of moderate Democrat.”

Monson reported that polls he took earlier this month showed Lee down to a 40 percent approval rating while 51 percent of Utahans surveyed said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. The numbers match national trends toward Republicans, who were mainly associated with the first full-scale shutdown of the U.S. government since 1994.

The Washington Post quoted Spencer Zwick — a former aide to Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)’s presidential campaign — who said that many in Utah saw Lee’s participation in the shutdown as a political stunt designed to call attention to himself.

Lee, he said, is a “show horse” who mainly wants to “be a spectacle.”

“Business leaders that I talk to, many of whom supported him,” Zwick said, “would never support his reelection and in fact will work against him, myself included.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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