Poll: More Utah Residents Support a Fourth-Term Bid for Leavitt

Poll: More Utah Residents Support a Fourth-Term Bid for Leavitt

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Mike Leavitt has growing support for a potential bid for a fourth term, a new poll finds, but the survey still shows that more respondents want him to let someone else take over.

The poll, done by Dan Jones & Associates for Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV, also found that Leavitt leads among possible Republican candidates, with Jon Huntsman Jr., a former U.S. ambassador, pulling closer.

Among Democrats, the survey showed University of Utah law school dean Scott Matheson Jr. well ahead of other possible candidates within his party.

Leavitt, 52, is expected to announce in September whether he'll seek a record-setting fourth term in 2004.

In April, Jones asked what's known as a "naked re-elect" question on Leavitt: Should he run again or is it time to give someone new a chance to serve? Sixty percent of respondents said then that Leavitt should not run again.

The new poll worded the question differently: Should Leavitt seek a fourth term or should he not? Jones found that 49 percent said Leavitt should not run again. But 45 percent said he should.

The telephone poll queried 607 adults, and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

State GOP chairman Joe Cannon said the new poll numbers are good news for Leavitt.

"Statistically, it is a significant change for the better for the governor," he said. "It sounds pretty encouraging for him, should he decide" to run again.

Several Republican and Democratic candidates have said they plan to run next year whether or not Leavitt seeks re-election.

Huntsman, son of billionaire industrialist/philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman, maintains he won't run against Leavitt, whom he calls a friend, should Leavitt run again. But several Republicans have said they're in the race, and others who haven't yet announced say their decisions don't depend on Leavitt.

Asked who they support among the possible GOP gubernatorial candidates next year, 30 percent of those polled by Jones said Leavitt -- about the same as in April.

But 26 percent said they prefer Huntsman, an increase from the last survey. Huntsman quit his Bush administration job this spring to move back to Utah to woo Republican Party delegates and leaders.

Jones also asked who people would support in the GOP nomination battle if Leavitt didn't run. Huntsman clearly does better with Leavitt out of the picture: 36 percent said they like Huntsman.

Another Republican, former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, also does better with Leavitt gone. With Leavitt in, Hansen has 14 percent support. Without him, Hansen has 26 percent.

Hansen, who retired from Congress in January after 22 years, has nearly $120,000 still in his federal campaign account, all of which could be transferred to a state race.

Among only Democratic voters, Jones found that Matheson leads his party's gubernatorial field with 63 percent support over former Democratic congressman Bill Orton's 20 percent.

Democrats say the poll shows Utah residents are hungry for new leadership.

"Utah voters are finally waking up to our economic plight in this state," said Meg Holbrook, state Democratic Party chair. "The fact that so many people favor Scott Matheson Jr., a man who has never run for office before, is a positive."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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