Analysis: Ben McAdams’ re-election campaign just got a lot dicier


Rep. Ben McAdams


The biggest threat to Rep. Ben McAdams second term in Congress materialized on Monday.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported United Utah Party candidate Jonia Broderick is prepping to jump into the UT04 race soon. The conventional wisdom suggests she doesn’t have much of a chance of winning a seat in Congress being a 3rd party candidate, but she surely could siphon enough votes away from McAdams to keep him from going back to Washington in 2020.

Remember what happened in 2012?

That year Republican Mia Love should have defeated Democrat Jim Matheson, but ended up losing by a scant 768 votes. Libertarian candidate Jim Vein pulled in 6,439 votes in the contest. His presence on the ballot likely tipped the race to Matheson. In fact, many Republicans blamed Vein for her loss.

As everyone knows, McAdams defeated Love by a razor-thin 694 votes in 2018. 

Broderick and McAdams will likely compete for many of the same voters as McAdams. She is carving out a similar place politically as McAdams, painting herself as a moderate on issues like immigration, the national debt and healthcare. In fact, many of her policy positions are nearly indistinguishable from McAdams. If she’s able to take a few thousand votes from McAdams next year, it could make his re-election prospects dicey.

Now, McAdams will not only have to fend off attacks from Republicans on the political right, but he’ll also be jockeying for space in the moderate middle with Broderick. Never fight a war on two fronts.

There simply aren’t enough Democrats in UT04 to push McAdams to the win. His path to another term is by winning the vast majority of Democrats, getting support from a majority of independent voters and convincing about 20-percent of Republicans to cross party lines and cast a ballot for him. A moderate candidate that appeals to independent voters and independent-leaning Republicans could make putting together that coalition more difficult. National Republicans are already gunning for McAdams next year. A policy doppleganger is an unwelcome addition as far as his prospects are concerned.

Utah’s 4th District is definitely not friendly country for President Donald Trump. He barely carried the district by 7 points in 2016. A recent Analytics poll found just 33% of 4th District voters are ready to vote for Trump in 2020, while nearly 6 in 10 voters there disapprove of Trump’s job performance. McAdams will need every one of those anti-Trump votes he can get to win again in the 91st most-Republican district in the country. 

Close elections have been the norm in Utah’s 4th District since it’s creation in 2012. The average margin of victory in the 4 elections is just under 11,000 votes. The largest win was Love’s 34,000 vote difference in her 2016 rematch with Democrat Doug Owens. If 2018 reverts to the mean, Broderick could play spoiler and return the district to the Republican column. 

Speaking of the Republican challengers, Kathleen Anderson released an internal poll on Monday showing the race for the GOP nomination to face McAdams next year is wide open, with 85% of potential Republican voters undecided at this point. So far,, only Anderson and veteran John Molnar are the only declared Republican candidates. State Reps. Kim Coleman and Jefferson Moss, Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie and former KSL Radio personality Jay McFarland are all said to be considering running.