A look this week at two interesting races in Utah this year – the GOP primary between U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and the November match-up between Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson and Republican wonder-woman Mia Love.
In the first, Hatch is the clear favorite out of the blocks in the statewide primary.
Hatch has great name I.D. He has $3.2 million in the bank and the ability to raise a bunch more over the next nine weeks until the June 26 vote. (Hatch’s FEC report here.)
Liljenquist has youth, vigor and a mighty will. But will that be enough? (Liljenquist has only $250,000 in cash. His FEC report is here.)
This could get ugly, especially if the outside Super-PAC FreedomWorks starts running negative Hatch ads like they’ve already done this year in the U.S Senate race.
Liljenquist has asked FreedomWorks not to come into Utah. But they’ve not listened before and likely won’t again.
Liljenquist has had some TV ads up and running (so has Hatch).
But Liljenquist clearly has a name I.D. problem, many GOP voters have not heard of him.
He’s asking Hatch for eight primary debates across the state. He’ll be lucky to get two, one in the northern Utah media market, another down in southern Utah where many voters won’t see it.
Yes, with modern technology you can live stream a video via the Internet. But it is hard enough to get people to watch a debate on their TVs, much less their computers.
By all accounts, the 4,000 state GOP delegates this year were a dedicated lot. They studied the issues and the candidates.
But there’s no real indication that Republican primary voters are of the same ilk.
Rather with the Utah primary day late in June when many families will have kids out of school and the adults not paying attention to politics, the primary voter turn out could be as anemic as in past years.
(Yes, Romney will be on the June 26 GOP ballot. But he’s already the nominee and certainly will win in Utah. In short, he won’t be the draw he will be on the November ballot when he’s matched up against President Barack Obama.)
Liljenquist has to somehow energize the GOP base – never an easy thing to do.
A Dan Jones & Associates poll for the Utah Foundation finds that nearly 60 percent of Republican voters like Hatch in the Senate race.
Liljenquist comes in around 10 percent support.
A 50-point gap. A big hill to climb by June 26.
Matheson, who has been a political wonder himself in Utah over the last decade, winning again and again in a GOP-leaning 2nd District, may be in real trouble this year.
You may recall that after the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the 2nd District in 2001, making it even more Republican, Matheson barely survived his 2002 re-election.
Back then, state Rep. John Swallow lost to Matheson by less than 1 percentage point.
If Swallow – who this year is running for Attorney General and is in a GOP primary with Sean Reyes – had had a bit more money he may well have knocked Matheson out of office.
Now, Matheson is more well-known and liked today than he was back in 2002.
But the son of the late Gov. Scott M. Matheson is also jumping from the 2nd District to the 4th District this election – a move that some 4th District voters may see as opportunistic.
Worse for Matheson, Love will be a candidate hard to go after. As mayor of the small Utah County town of Saratoga Springs, Love doesn’t have much of a political record.
As an African-American woman she also is a new face in Utah politics, especially on the Republican side.
Love has already gotten some national buzz. And certainly more will be coming over the summer/fall campaign.
One of Matheson’s strengths has been his constant fund raising. He’s outraised his GOP opponents in every race, and used the money wisely.
According to influenceexplorer, Matheson has raised $1.2 million in this election cycle and has $971,548 in cash. (Read his FEC report here.)
Love has as fraction of that cash, $120,000 raised and $40,000 in cash. (Read her FEC report here.)
But she has the ability to raise a lot of it now.
I predict you will see tons of greenbacks coming to Love from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the budget chair of the GOP-controlled U.S. House, has already given her $5,000 from his Prosperity PAC. And more national Republican money is on the way, you can be sure of it.
True, Matheson is starting out well.
The Jones poll found that among REPUBLICAN voters in the new 4th District, Matheson leads the pack of all candidates.
The conservative Democrat gets 23 percent of the GOP vote. Love gets only 5 percent of the vote.
But that is as much a name I.D. measurement as it is a preference vote.
In his old 2nd District, Matheson routinely needed to get 60 percent of the GOP vote along the east side of Salt Lake County to overcome the heavy Republican advantages his opponent received in southern Utah.
The 4th District doesn’t include the east side of Salt Lake County. It takes in the west side of Salt Lake County and the west side of Utah County (where Love is from.)
In announcing he would run in the 4th District this year, not his traditional 2nd District, Matheson said way back in 2000 – when he first won the 2nd District – his area included some of the current 4th District, like parts of West Valley City and so on.
But while Matheson has certainly been in the news over the last decade, and had high approval ratings in his old 2nd District, he hasn’t represented these folks in a decade.
They haven’t seen his name on a ballot since 2000.
Yes, 4th District Republicans may have a favorable impression of Matheson today. But what will it be come November?
You will see Love standing up with many well-loved GOP officeholders and candidates before that vote.
It is likely you’ll see Mitt Romney (and don’t Utahns just love Mitt!!) in Utah campaigning for friend Hatch before the June 26 primary.
Romney’s son, Josh, has endorsed Love, and will probably get daddy to help her out, as well.
You’ll see other well-liked national Republicans in this state for Love.
It will be very difficult for Matheson – who, like always, will be standing alone all this time, he never associates with national Democrats – to measure up to that.
Indeed, Matheson’s 2012 re-election task would have been much easier if right-winger Carl Wimmer, a former state House member, had been the GOP nominee in the 4th District.
That may have been part of the reason delegates gave Love an impressive 70 percent victory in last Saturday’s state GOP convention.
Love had predicted to UtahPolicy two weeks ago that she would win the nomination outright. But Wimmer and a number of other politicos guessed (I was one of them) that there would be a Wimmer/Love primary.
Not to be.
By the way, Love’s middle initial is B. So she is officially Mia B. Love. How do you go after that candidate?