Utah Republicans always try to nationalize tough congressional races, given that Utah voters tend to support the Republican agenda in Congress over Democratic priorities.
If they can do it this year, Republican Burgess Owens will have a better chance of defeating incumbent Democrat Ben McAdams.
But if Utahns vote for the person, ignoring the context of the arch-liberal national Democratic agenda, then the likeable, moderate McAdams will likely win.
I believe that this year, more than most, Republicans may have a chance to nationalize the election. I sense that a lot of independents and moderate Republicans – the voters McAdams needs – are getting tired of what they view as an all-out assault by liberal Democrats on traditional American values and security.
The riots and looting in American cities, taking social justice issues to extremes, the “cancel culture” that denigrates historical figures and paints America as an evil, racist country, along with the far-left policies of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are making a lot of moderates very nervous about national politics.
The Republicans will argue: Ben McAdams is a nice guy and would make a good neighbor. But if you send a Democrat back to Washington and ensure another term for Nancy Pelosi as speaker, then you are encouraging the leftist agenda in Washington, hurting the chances of Republicans winning control of the House, and thwarting Pres. Trump’s post-election agenda if he wins.
And Republicans will say that when push comes to shove, when Pelosi really needs his vote, McAdams will cave and vote with the Democrats — as proven by his vote to impeach Trump. A vote for McAdams is a vote for a leftist Democratic agenda in Washington, they will say.
McAdams will rightly argue that as a member of the majority party, he can be a moderating influence, and will oppose far-left policies. He will be a voice to bring factions together to get things done. He is a proponent of getting the federal budget under control and will support practical, common-sense legislation. He will note that Utah needs a reasonable voice in the majority party.
He will also argue that Owens is too extreme on the right, that he will be divisive and will have little influence.
So it will be interesting to see how the election plays out. McAdams has far more money available and will run a smart race. He won’t personally savagely attack Owens, but his party apparatus will. Outside conservative groups will also mount ferocious attacks against McAdams, but he may be clever enough to turn them against Owens and gain some sympathy votes.
Outside attack dogs never seem to understand Utah culture and values, so their nasty ads sometimes backfire.
Clearly, with so much attention on big national issues in a presidential election year, Republicans have a better chance than usual to nationalize this election. Whether they can do it smartly and effectively remains to be seen.