Richard Piatt ReportingThe dust appears to have settled on the Huntsman and Karras campaigns after a round of mud-slinging over a phone message surfaced yesterday. Accusations of negative campaigning in the governor's primary are at the heart of the matter, but no one should be all that surprised this is going on.
For candidates, politics has always involved making yourself look good---and if you can make your opponent look bad, that's good too.
As the Governor's primary race heats up, a voice mail message reminds people who aren't in politics about what's involved in politics:
Spencer Stokes, Karras Volunteer to Doug Foxley, Huntsman Volunteer: "Just tell Jon Senior to be warned that if you guys decide you are going to go negative on Nolan, hell hath no fury. We have a lot of s--- on Jon Huntsman senior and junior that we've not used, but if he is going to play that game, we will play that one too."
According to U of U political science professor Matt Burbank, this peek beneath the veneer of the process is rare for one reason, attribution to former Republican party executive director Spencer Stokes.
Matt Burbank: "The only thing that's unusual about this is it became public, and that a campaign chose to bring it to the public. So what I think you saw in this circumstance is something that happens in virtually every campaign."
You don't have to go back very far in Utah history to find evidence of negative campaigning. Eyewitness News did stories on it in 1990 in the Wayne Owens/Geneveve Atwood race. In 1998, Lilly Eskelson's people used unflattering pictures of Merrill Cook to try to hurt him. And, ask former Congressman Bill Orton about negative ads. A so-called 'family values' ad is a Utah classic -- negative ad that backfired on challenger Carl Snow.
14 years later Orton isn't surprised at negative behind the scenes threats or schemes.
Bill Orton: "Usually it's the whisper campaign, it's the anonymous letters and flyers, it's the material that's not attributable to anyone. What's unusual is when it's tied to someone."
But there is always fallout, whether it's trashing a whole campaign or just a few signs along the way.