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Scott Howell, like every other major Democratic candidate from Utah, had planned to avoid the national convention entirely. But he couldn't turn down an opportunity to represent the LDS Church on a panel on religion this Wednesday and since he's flying all the way to Charlotte, he plans to take part in a meeting Tuesday for LDS Democrats.

While glad to talk about his religious views, Howell and his campaign sure seem worried that it's a political liability for him to be seen fraternizing with Democrats from throughout the nation. And they launched a preemptive attack on Monday against any criticism that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, may throw his way.

"I know that the Hatch camp could use this to try and paint me as something I'm not," Howell said in a statement. "If Orrin and his machine want to use my spirituality as political ammunition, that's on their heads, but my conscience is clean."

Asked if they had any comment on Howell's visit to Charlotte, Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen responded: "No comment."

— Matt Canham<

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