American politicians, like the public they represent, are increasingly polarized. And while the vitriol is palpable during legislative sessions, it’s ratcheted up to new heights during campaigns. In close races, when every vote matters, sometimes the only way to make any headway in the polls is attack the opposing candidate's goals, beliefs, motivations or integrity.
These days, it’s the rare race that doesn’t go negative that stands out, and the Utah governor’s race is taking it a step further. Republican candidate Spencer Cox and Democratic candidate Chris Peterson appear in a series of ads together, finishing each other’s sentences and saying nice things about one another.
With their party affiliations prominently displayed on their lapels, they both call for an end to negative campaigning and pledge to support a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the presidential election.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to keep from going negative when the opposing campaign is, either in official ads or through super PAC spots funded by dark money. And it helps that both Cox and Peterson are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so they have something in common besides their political beliefs. It’s also a pitch that wouldn’t play as well in other parts of the country, where Cox’s continued support for President Trump or Peterson’s views on abortion care would make a handshake across the aisle unpalatable for many supporters.
While viewers might applaud both candidates for setting an example for the rest of the country, keep in mind that the race isn’t close. Cox, the Republican, has a 24-point lead in the latest polls, so there’s no risk that this gesture from the candidates will upset the outcome.
Read more about how the campaign came together in our Behind the Work story.