These are other delicious anecdotes were on the menu Thursday evening at the University of Utah Washington chapter’s alumni association meeting, which hosted Burr and fellow Washington correspondent Matt Canham – himself a U of U grad and former editor of the school’s newspaper – in a post mortem about the 2012 elections.
While it’s easy for pundits and others to Monday morning quarterback a lost election, Canham insists Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign “performed pretty well.”
While Mormonism may have hurt Romney in some primary battles, notably South Carolina, it “may have helped humanize him on the national stage,” Burr said. The election in general was “absolutely a positive for the LDS Church.”
Moreover, the Mormon issue itself was nowhere near as relevant in 2012 because it had already been covered so extensively in 2008.
The big surprise on Tuesday was the Mia Love-Jim Matheson race, Canham said, and “not just because [the Tribune] poll absolutely blew it.”
Given all the advantages Love had – her star potential, gobs of money, and a Mormon at the top of the ticket – the question going forward is how does the Republican Party possibly beat Matheson ever. Canham also noted that this election also underscores just how hard it is to run against any incumbent.
“We had an idea today,” Burr quipped. “Run Mitt Romney against her.”
One of the challenges that Utah Republicans face is that, given how strongly they dominate elections, most campaign advisors are not “battle tested” for intra-party tough races, Canham said. “She just didn’t have the machinery in place,” but he noted for someone as young and talented as she is “There’s plenty of opportunities for her to do more in the future.”
One opportunity could be a Senate run in 2018. “A whole lot of people are lining up for Orrin Hatch’s job,” when he steps down, Canham said.
Of course no post-election discuss is complete without speculation about the next election. The two prognosticated that Republicans will need to soften on issues like gay marriage and immigration, the way Democrats have on gun control.
“If Republicans don’t change, they’ll become the Whig Party of our day,” Burr said.
One of those changes could be candidates who are fielded. Canham thinks the GOP nominee in 2016 will be Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), who could help the Republicans win Latino voters, and the Democrat nominee will be a woman: Hillary Clinton or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).