Here’s a political shocker for you. Hillary Clinton is leading Republican Donald Trump in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, albeit by a slim two-point margin.
According to polling data from Dan Jones & Associates, 30% of voters in Utah’s 4th Congressional District say they would vote for Hillary Clinton if the election were held today, while 28% picked Donald Trump. Another 20% in that district would vote for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. That’s a virtual statistical tie between Trump and Clinton, with Johnson within striking distance.
These numbers are particularly significant given the hotly contested race between Rep. Mia Love and her Democratic challenger Doug Owens. The latest UtahPolicy.com survey found Love with a 13-point lead over Owens.
The other three Congressional Districts in Utah give Trump a solid lead.
– Trump leads Clinton 39-23% in Utah’s 1st CD. – Trump holds a 40-29% lead over Clinton in the 2nd District. – Trump leads Clinton 40-21% in the 3rd CD.
But, the 4th District is clearly a problem for Trump, and could be an opportunity for Democrats.
The tight race between Trump and Clinton in the 4th CD is likely the reason Mia Love has been mute on the issue. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Love called Trump “subpar” as a candidate. She also did not rule out casting a vote for Gary Johnson in November. She skipped the GOP convention in Cleveland, just four years after becoming breakout star during her address to the 2012 convention in Tampa. In a July interview with UtahPolicy.com, Love said she needs to see more policy proposals from Trump before she can support him.
It’s a smart strategy for her, given Trump’s staggering unpopularity in Utah. A July UtahPolicy.com poll showed Trump with a 12-point lead over Clinton 37-25%. Johnson had 16% support. That’s nowhere close to the 48-point victory in Utah Mitt Romney had over Barack Obama in 2012 and the 28-point win Sen. John McCain notched over Barack Obama in 2008.
Owens has not done much, if anything, to try to tie Love to Trump. If he can find an effective line of attack against her on that front, he might be able to cut into that 13-point lead.
But, Owens has a political tightrope to walk as well. Clinton hardly has a robust lead in the district. At best it’s a slight one, but more likely it’s a statistical tie. That means Owens can’t voice vociferous support for her agenda without giving Love an opening to attack him.
As a result, presidential politics have been almost non-existent in this race. Love is trying to tie Owens to Nancy Pelosi, pulling a page out of the Morgan Philpot playbook when he lost to Jim Matheson by 5-points in 2010. Owens is focusing on family and his ties to Utah, something that nearly gave him the win over Love in 2014 when he lost by a mere 7,500 votes.
Both campaigns have a narrow path to follow if they want to nationalize the campaign. Owens can’t open up a Trump attack without exposing his soft underbelly on the Clinton issue. The same thing goes for Love. She can’t can’t hit Owens for being too close to Clinton without opening herself up to Trump-based attacks.
Both campaigns are playing it very close to the chest when it comes to national politics. When asked to comment on this story, the Owens campaign declined while the Love campaign did not return the request.