Is there any place left where the vice president can be sure of a friendly welcome? Dick Cheney is traveling later this month to Utah, the reddest of Red States, to deliver the commencement address at the Mormon Church's Brigham Young University. But even there, support is ebbing for George W. Bush and Cheney. The university has approved a rare campus protest this week against Cheney's visit, and is considering a second on commencement day. One online petition asking BYU to rescind the invitation has gathered more than 2,000 signatures, many from students and professors as well as alumni. The university says such criticism is normal. "On this campus there are many diverse viewpoints on any number of subjects," says spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.
Bush met with church president Gordon Hinckley in Salt Lake City in September, but that hasn't stopped a shift in Mormon loyalties—just as the polls have moved among Christian conservatives across the country. According to veteran Utah pollster Dan Jones, support for Cheney among "very active" Mormons is down to 69 percent, while 49 percent of "somewhat active" Mormons support him. Like Bush's, Cheney's approval rating is down 15 to 20 points across the state over the past two years. Jones puts Cheney's decline down to the CIA leak case, while BYU Democrats point to the war in Iraq. Cheney's press secretary Lea Anne McBride says the veep's speech will focus on the graduates, not partisan politics.