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SALT LAKE CITY -- Most Utahns don't have an opinion on the man selected to be the state's next lieutenant governor. That's according to a new Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret News.
The pick of Davis County Sen. Greg Bell as Gary Herbert's second-in-command sets the table for next year's gubernatorial race by balancing Herbert's Utah County conservatism with a running mate perceived as more moderate.
"I'm conservative in principle and moderate in tone," Bell said Wednesday.
At the same news conference, Herbert told reporters, "I want[ed] to find somebody who broadens my experience, broadens the appeal.
An overnight Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret News shows of 214 Utahns, 36 percent approve of Bell as the next lieutenant governor, 6 percent disapprove, and 58 percent don't know.
While many Utahns don't know him, many Republicans convention delegates do. Paul Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute, says the pick could cause trouble with conservatives.
"I think the pick of Greg as lieutenant governor makes it more difficult for Gary to get through the convention process," Mero said. "I think in the 2010 election, Gary and Greg will be challenged within the Republican Party; most certainly in 2012."
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank says the pick could help in a general election running against a Democrat.
"If Republicans look to be too conservative, that opens a possibility for Democrats, in particular people like Corroon," Burbank said.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has not made a decision, but Democratic Party leaders see a promising opportunity for him as leader of the state's most populous county.
"I think it bodes fairly well for us. Greg Bell isn't one of the A-listers. He's a descent guy who is affable, but he's part of the Republican mess that's up there," said Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party.
That Dan Jones poll show shows Herbert himself is a bit of a political unknown for many Utahns. Fifty percent of Utahns polled approve of Herbert's job as lieutenant governor, 9 percent disapprove, and a fairly large percentage--41 percent--say they don't know.