One of the leading Democratic presidential candidates stopped to stump in Utah on Wednesday. That raised a question: why? It turns out, Utah matters now, when it comes to presidential politics.
It was a packed house at ‘The Depot’ in downtown Salt Lake City, Wednesday evening. Hundreds more stood outside as they were unable to get into the venue. Screaming as though they were cheering a rock band, the crowd of presumably mostly Democrats might have been excited to see the candidate, which recent polls say is the party’s fifth most popular candidate; or they might have just been excited to be noticed.
After all, when it comes to presidential politics, the beehive state has been buzzed over, in past presidential primary seasons. This season – a year and a half ahead of election day – Democratic candidates have already begun dropping in.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts isn’t the first candidate to visit Utah and she isn’t expected to be the last.
“No, not at all,” says state Democratic Party Chair Daisy Thomas. “We’re super excited about all the presidential candidates coming to Utah.”
Thomas used the word “super” again, when she explained why her state is suddenly politically relevant.
“Because we’re a part of the Super Tuesday,” she says. “We’re really excited about all the energy we have as Utah Democrats.”
It’s energy that is generated by good timing. A new law changes the format of Utah’s presidential primaries to a popular vote rather than the old caucus. More importantly, perhaps, it moves the date up on the calendar to the first Tuesday in March 2020, also known as “Super Tuesday.”
Now that Utah will hold it’s primaries the same day as California and nine other states, candidates are targeting Utah.
“We’re no longer a fly-over state,” says Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who is one of the state’s most prominent Democrats. “Our voices now matter in a relevant way. And I think it’s a great opportunity for us as Utahns, because we have national leaders coming, and Utah has a voice to share about the ideas about how to run this country.”
Senator Warren seems to hear the voices of Utah Democrats. She started her rally by repeating her promise to restore the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. And she drew perhaps her biggest cheer by denouncing what she called Washington corruption.
“When you see a government that works great for those who have money, and can hire armies of lobbyists, but isn’t working great for anyone else, that’s corruption, pure and simple, and we need to call it out for what it is.”
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