Taylor Haynes often said he was the most educated person ever to run for governor of Wyoming. Which could be true, but it was obvious Tuesday night he should have spent more time in his math classes.
At 10 p.m., the Cheyenne rancher and retired urologist was given an opportunity by a Casper television reporter to talk about the race, which saw him get about one-third of the vote in a Republican primary won handily by Gov. Matt Mead.
The moment was a golden opportunity for Haynes to thank his supporters, who had gathered at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission building, talk about fighting the good conservative fight, and concede the race to Mead. But Haynes was having none of that.
Despite The Associated Press declaring Mead the winner, the candidate insisted there were still “some big counties” where the votes hadn’t been tallied, and he was going to wait “until all the votes are in.”
But if The AP is correct, the reporter pressed, and he did finish a strong second, how did he feel about his showing?
“I remember ‘Dewey Beats Truman,'” Haynes said, recalling the famous newspaper headline that got the winner of the 1948 presidential race wrong.
The problem was at that point, it was mathematically impossible to pull out a victory like Harry Truman did. With 91 percent of the state’s precincts already in, Haynes trailed the governor by more than 20,000 votes. He couldn’t make up such a large deficit, even if he won every single vote that was still out, which wasn’t going to happen either.
The reporter, obviously frustrated at this point with the candidate’s inability to admit the obvious, asked him if he thought the Republican Party would be united after the primary, which also included Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, who finished a distant third.
Yes, Haynes replied, he was certain the GOP would be united — around him, once he won the nomination.
In unofficial results, Mead won with 53,626 votes, 55 percent of the total. Haynes garnered 31,490, 32 percent, while Hill received 12,443 votes, 13 percent.
For her part, Hill accepted reality and released a statement that noted “the people have spoken.”
Indeed they did, and they definitely rejected the Tea Party-style leadership both Haynes and Hill represented. But what did they really say about Mead and his support from the Republican Party?
On one hand, Mead won by more than 22,000 votes, which is a lot bigger margin than the 714 votes he defeated Rita Meyer by in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary four years ago. He went on to outpoll Democrat Leslie Petersen nearly 3-to-1 in the general election.
On the other hand, 55 percent of the total is hardly an impressive showing for an incumbent governor who is in office during a relatively good economy and an unemployment rate of only 4 percent. If that’s all the support he can get facing two candidates who were obviously out of their league in running for the state’s chief executive, how would he do against a viable, stronger opponent?
On Tuesday, Mead won the primary despite narrowly surviving a censure vote during the state Republican convention. Many conservative members of the party were angry with Mead for signing Senate File 104, the bill that took away most of Hill’s powers as superintendent before the Wyoming Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.
Initially, Hill looked like a stronger opponent for Mead than she turned out to be. It’s likely she lost a lot of her support when the Legislature’s lengthy investigation of how federal funds were spent by her department, and how personnel decisions were made, showed how poorly the state’s public school system has fared during her tenure.
That left the ultra-right-wing protest votes mostly to Haynes, who spent a lot of his campaign ridiculousy talking about how he would just kick federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out of Wyoming. What will being rabidly anti-federal government get you in a Wyoming election? It appears it’s worth 32 percent.
Would Haynes have polled better without Hill in the race? Some of her votes would likely have gone his way, but certainly not all. Some of her supporters may have just stayed home. It’s also possible that Haynes’ and Hill’s totals were inflated by Democratic voters who switched parties for the primary. The Dems would have loved to face either one in November instead of Mead, but that scenario was never going to play out.
Much of the race between Mead and Democratic nominee Pete Gosar will hinge on how unified the GOP faithful are in the general election.
Haynes could be influential in convincing Republicans that Mead really is a conservative after all. Of course, first someone will have to let him know he didn’t win.