The opposing Utah gubernatorial candidates are hoping the overwhelming response to their viral ad about respecting one another shows that Americans are "hungry for decency" in politics after years of division and animosity.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox of the GOP and Chris Peterson, a Democrat, spoke on TODAY Thursday about joining together to create an ad that shows politicians today can still respect one another, even if they're on opposite sides of the aisle. In the short clip, the unlikely pair stand socially distanced in a room to discuss what they do agree on.
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"There's a couple ways to look at this," Cox told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. "It's really sad that saying we should treat each other with kindness and decency (went) viral, but at the same time it's really restored my faith in the American people that people are hungry for decency. They're tired of the divisiveness, and I'm certainly hopeful that that means there are better things to come in politics."
After they introduce themselves in the ad and clarify that they both want viewers' votes, Peterson, sporting a blue donkey pin, tells the camera, "We can debate issues without degrading each other's character."
I’m not sure this has ever been done before...but as our national political dialogue continues to decline, my opponent @PetersonUtah and I decided to try something different. We can disagree without hating each other. Let’s make Utah an example to the nation. #StandUnited #utpol pic.twitter.com/Tkr2sDCYTB
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) October 20, 2020
Cox, wearing a red elephant pin, adds, "We can disagree without hating each other."
"And win or lose, in Utah, we work together," Peterson continues.
"So let's show the country that there's a better way," Cox concludes.
At the end, both candidates announce in unison that "we approve this message," before "#StandUnited" appears on the screen.
"I think maybe the initial idea was probably from Spencer, but as we started to come together, I think it just jelled," Peterson said on TODAY. "We put it together quite quickly, and I'm really excited that it's something that is helping people feel some comfort.
"It's not that we don't have disagreements, we really do. But the truth is, I think we both genuinely like each other. Spencer's a great guy, and we have to remember that we all have to get along after these elections."
Cox shared the ad on Twitter Tuesday morning, explaining that he wasn't sure if such a strategy had even been done before.
"As our national political dialogue continues to decline, my opponent @PetersonUtah and I decided to try something different," he wrote. "We can disagree without hating each other. Let’s make Utah an example to the nation."
Peterson also shared the video and thanked his opponent for his participation.
"With the deep divisions in our country, it can take grace and courage to try to work together," he tweeted. "No matter who wins the presidential election, we must all commit to a peaceful transfer of power."
The two candidates have even discussed working for the eventual winner's administration.
"I mentioned this actually in our debate that if he wins, I would hope that I would have an opportunity to work with him, and if I win that we would have an opportunity to work together on issues that are important to him," Cox said. "There are opportunities for us to work together, and again, just like Chris said, that's the foundation of our country. Especially in the worst of times."
The ad was met with plenty of praise online, with viewers feeling inspired to see two opposing parties collaborating.
"So refreshing to open Twitter this morning, & see this uplifting appeal to civility, to unity!" one person replied in a tweet. "I’m actually really moved to see you two doing this PSA together... It gives me great hope. Our state, our nation really needs to see this right now. Thanks, guys!"
"As a Dem I’ll always have utmost admiration for Mr. Cox after this beautiful tribute," added another. "This is a decent man through and through."
Cox is currently polling ahead of Peterson, according to a Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released Monday night. Half of respondents said they'd vote for Cox if the election were today, while 26% said they supported Peterson.
"We're just trying to focus on the issues and have a civil campaign and let the public decide," Peterson said. "That's what our democracy is supposed to be about. Count up all the votes and then we have an election and then afterwards we move forward together. That's what our country's supposed to be about, and I'm committed to that."