If Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert isn't reelected this year, it would be akin to a college football team firing a national championship-winning coach, according to the governor's own assessment.
"You've won the national championship, why would you want to change the coach," Herbert said in an interview on Sunday with Hotline On Call on the sidelines of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington.
Herbert's main campaign argument is that the Beehive State's economy has improved under his watch. His sports analogy is a reference to the state's economic health and Forbes Magazine naming Utah the best state for business two years in a row.
"My argument could be, we're doing very well economically, we're growing the economy at three times the national average, we're creating jobs at a after rate than anywhere in America except North Dakota, which is going through a significant oil boom," said Herbert, who also pointed to the state's declining unemployment rate.
Some conservatives in the Utah would disagree with Herbert's rosy assessment of his tenure. The governor has already drawn three Republican opponents ahead of the April convention at which a candidate must top the 60 percent threshold to avoid a top-two primary.
David Kirkham, the leading tea party figure in Utah and an outspoken critic of Herbert, is challenging the governor, as are Morgan Philpot, a former state representative and congressional candidate, and state Rep. Ken Sumsion.
Sumsion and Philpot have already advocated taking a strong stand against federal regulations. And while Herbert wants to points to his economic record, Kirkham has highlighted a guest worker measure signed by Herbert as a point of contention.
"It's pretty hard to criticize me on my economic record," responded Herbert, when asked about his critics and opponents. "I think some of the criticism has to do with style. 'We don't like his style. We wished he was a little more bombastic or whatever.'"
Herbert, who was former Gov. Jon Huntsman's lieutenant governor, took office in 2009 after Huntsman was tapped by President Obama to become ambassador to China.
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