We have yet to see candidate advertising in Utah’s 4th U.S. House District this election year, so we can’t analyze exactly the strategies to be used by Republican Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and her challenger, Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
The general feeling is that Love is vulnerable, but she’s still ahead in UtahPolicy.com Dan Jones & Associates polling – 47-43 percent, with 10 percent undecided and a margin of error of 5 percent.
So, in that May poll, the race could be considered statistically tied.
While the district – which runs down the west side of Salt Lake and Utah counties, taking in several small areas of other tiny population counties – leans Republican, Love has not won great victories in the last two elections.
Can McAdams, a popular, moderate Democrat, nip her this year?
The 4th District is the least Republican of the Utah U.S. House seats – drawn that way by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 as a way to protect the then-three other GOP Utah congressional members.
You will likely see Love’s veteran campaign manager, Dave Hansen, calling on some national Republican figures to come into Utah to campaign for, and raise money for, Love.
But you won’t see GOP Pres. Donald Trump specifically coming in for Love.
That’s because of this very interesting number found in Jones’ last poll:
In the 4th District, Trump has a 37 percent approval rating and a 60 percent disapproval rating.
Folks, those are bad numbers for a Republican president in a Republican state.
More importantly, Jones finds that 44 percent of 4th District voters “strongly disapprove” of Trump, while only 15 percent “strongly approve” of him.
Seventy-one percent of 4th District voters believe Trump paid porn actress Stormy Daniels hush money just before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an alleged affair.
On the other side, you won’t be seeing McAdams’ campaign bringing in any Washington, D.C., Democrats.
Nope, Nancy Pelosi – the former House speaker and current minority leader – won’t be here. (McAdams has already said he won’t vote for Pelosi for speaker, should he win and Democrats take control of the U.S. House.)
What you might see – and this could be really odd on TV – is McAdams (or PACs aligned with him) running anti-Trump ads, while Love et al. is running anti-Pelosi ads – trying to tie the other candidate to the unpopular national political figures.
Trump and Pelosi won’t be on the 4th District ballot, but you see what I mean.
Here are some other numbers – found in the Jones poll – that Love has to deal with while the other three GOP U.S. House members from Utah don’t have to this November:
— 45 percent of the 4th District voters say they are Republicans.
— 22 percent say they are Democrats
— 25 percent say they are political independents.
— 7 percent say they belong to some other political party.
— 1 percent declined to answer.
If you add together the Democrats and independents you get 47 percent of voters, more than the Republicans alone.
Now, McAdams may count on all the Democrats votes, but he can’t count on all of the independents.
Still, if he can win by far most of the independents, and strip away some moderate Republicans, he can do it.
Love clearly has to hold her base.
But it’s not all that conservative of a base.
Jones finds that in the 4th District:
— 18 percent say they are “very conservative” in their political philosophy; that compares to 23 percent statewide.
— 23 percent of 4th District voters say they are “somewhat conservative,” compared to 27 percent statewide.
— 30 percent say they are “moderates” politically, compared to just 24 percent statewide.
— 18 percent say they are “somewhat liberal,” compared to 16 percent statewide.
— And 9 percent of 4th District voters say they are “very liberal” politically, compared to 9 percent statewide.
You add the conservatives together in the 4th District and you get 41 percent.
Add the moderates and liberals together and you get 57 percent.
How much good does it do for Love to hit McAdams over and over again on being a moderate or liberal?
How hard can she play the “true conservative” card – when they only make up 41 percent of 4th District voters?
Both camps have to tread carefully on their messages over the next few months, that is clear.
Love has already been trying to hit McAdams over abortion – Jones finds that 49 percent of 4th District voters believe abortion should be “illegal in most cases.”
But 40 percent of 4th District voters say it should be legal either in all cases, or in most cases.
And McAdams, a faithful Mormon, says his beliefs follow those of the LDS Church, which Love also belongs to.
We’ll soon see how both camps try to tear down the other candidate while building themselves up over the next few months.
But the poll numbers do tell some interesting stories in Utah’s 4th District race this year.