Hansen Promises ‘Different’ Re-Match for Love Against Matheson

By Bob Bernick

He was only off the job for several months – that’s how long it took Dave Hansen, who has become somewhat of a Utah GOP campaign consulting god, to get into the 2014 election cycle.

As devoted UtahPolicy readers know, Hansen has agreed to run the next campaign of Republican Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love against incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson.

Hansen tells UtahPolicy that he first met with Love and her husband in December, just a month after Hansen shepherded Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to an unprecedented seventh term in the U.S. Senate.

By January, Hansen says he and Love had decided to work together in a race to take the eight-term Matheson out of office.

Many so-called political pundits, including yours truly, thought that with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, Love with a whole lot of money and Matheson running in a new House district, that 2012 would be the year Matheson lost.

But he didn’t.

He barely won with 768 votes in a heavily TV-ad, negative campaign that put a lot of 4th District voters off.

However, if history repeats itself – Matheson barely won re-election in a 2002 redrawn 2ndCongressional District over GOP challenger John Swallow, only to swamp Swallow’s second effort in 2004 – then Matheson would be even stronger against Love this second time around.

But Hansen is determined that history doesn’t repeat itself.

While not directly criticizing the campaign that Love ran in 2012, Hansen tells UtahPolicy that in 2014 (assuming she wins the GOP nomination, and Hansen is pretty confident of that) Love’s work will be less TV and more personal voter contact.

In Hatch’s 2012 re-election, Hansen says so much of the grassroots campaign work was front-end loaded: Hatch had to get his supporters out to the March 2012 GOP neighborhood caucuses, had to get his own delegates elected, and then had to make a strong showing at the state Republican Party Convention in order not to be eliminated there – as U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett was in 2010.

Then, Hatch had to win a primary – if he couldn’t get 60 percent of the delegate vote at the convention – and the general election would take care of itself.

The Love-Matheson rematch of 2014 will be very different.

Yes, work must be done to turn out Love supporters at caucus night a year from now.

Yes, Love will have to do well in the convention.

But Hansen sees the real test for Love next year in the final election with Matheson.

“This race (organizationally) is just the opposite,” said Hansen.

“Mia still has a lot of strength among delegates and party people.

“Hopefully we go into the caucuses and convention without having to spend a lot of money and get the nomination,” said Hansen.

“We certainly want to avoid a primary. Our biggest challenge is the general election.”

How do you get 768 more votes?

“We’ll be ramping up the campaign as we go along, saving money, using many of the volunteer resources Mia can get. And we’ll be ready for the final election.”

Last year Matheson – always a tireless fundraiser – pulled together $2.3 million and spent most of it. He ended his campaign with only $16,841.

Love actually outraised him – she gathered $2.5 million and ended her campaign with $134,840.

Of course, as Utahns well remember, a whole lot of cash came into the 2012 4th District race from outside groups, who poured tens of millions of dollars into pro and con ads for both candidates.

“Everyone saw those ads last year,” says Hansen. “By the time the (final) election came around, everyone had seen enough of those ads.”

“You don’t have to put everything into TV buys in this (upcoming) election in order to win,” says Hansen, who has managed some of the largest campaigns in Utah history and once worked for the U.S. Senate GOP national committee on trying to get senators elected from the West.

“We’re going to put a big concentrated focus on Mia Love supporters, identifying who they are and making sure they get out to vote.”

Many thought that with Mitt Romney the presidential nominee in 2012, in Mormon-heavy Utah his coattails would carry down-ballot Republican candidates to victory.

But that didn’t happen in the Love/Matheson race.

“I really don’t know why,” Hansen said, and he’s not spending a lot of time thinking about it or analyzing it.

There were a number of 4th District voters who cast a ballot for Romney, but then switched parties and voted for Matheson.

2014 is a completely different dynamic, said Hansen.

With no U.S. President, governor or senator on the ballot, the 4th District race is the top of the ticket.

As much attention as the Mia/Matheson race got last year, it will get even more next year.

“You have to give people a reason to vote for your candidate,” said Hansen. And just yelling that they are the GOP nominee or that this or that higher-profile candidate (like Mitt) is endorsing your candidate may not be enough.

“Hopefully, we will give voters in the 4th District a reason to vote for Mia.”

While the huge voter turnout didn’t materialize in Utah last year, history shows that the 2014 off-election will see fewer, no more, voters.

The so-called casual voters who may have cast a ballot for Romney and then switched and voted for Matheson may not go to the polls in 2014.

That means Matheson will suffer and Love, if she can energize her supporters, will benefit from a lower voter turnout.

“If voters (next year) really take a look at this race, they want someone in this district with Mia’s philosophy; she’s clearly a better fit than Congressman Matheson.”

Yes, Matheson is a nice guy, and a good guy, says Hansen. And that means something in Utah politics.

But Love has high approval ratings as well.

Will the 2014 campaign cost as much as last year’s?

“I don’t know,” says Hansen, who is just now putting together a strategy and budget.

“But I’ll say this, Mia has a following not only in Utah but across the nation.”

She has appeared on Sunday morning political talk shows and spoke at last week’s CPAC conservative seminar in Washington, D.C.

Love would be the first African-American GOP woman ever to serve in the U.S. House, if she can win a general election.

“People want to give (money) to her and they want to help get her across the line this time.

“We will have the resources for an effective campaign,” said Hansen.

Ready or not, there will be an expensive, high profile 4th Congressional District campaign next year.

And since neither Matheson nor Love can control what outside entities spend here, nor the TV ads they can run, it will be seen whether either campaign can really control their own message.

“We will be doing what we can with what we can” control, says Hansen, and that starts with grassroots organization to get Love supporters to the 2014 neighborhood caucus, to the convention, and then to vote for Love in 18 months.