Webb’s Wrap: Can Republicans win the sympathy vote with Owens?

Despite a lot of feel-good TV ads, the contest between Democratic incumbent Ben McAdams and Republican challenger Burgess Owens is going to be a nasty affair. The national Democrats have already weighed in with a brutal ad about Owens’ several bankruptcies.

The Republican response has been interesting. Rather than try to explain away Burgess’ past financial problems, Republicans are going for the sympathy vote, betting that everyone likes a hard-luck story that ends with the underdog overcoming all odds to succeed.

A lengthy statement (and fund-raising pitch) from Utah GOP Chair Derek Brown says: “Burgess Owens has been sharing his heart-wrenching and incredible life story with Utah. He pulled himself out of bankruptcy, working as a chimney sweep to provide for his young family, creating success out of failures.

“In his nationally-televised speech at the Republican National Convention, he said, ‘I’m running for Congress because we don’t need more career politicians.  We need a few more chimney sweeps.’

“Burgess’s life story showcases everything good about America:  an African American man who had nothing, struggled against the odds, and created the American Dream.

“Now … do you understand why Ben McAdams and his party are spending millions of dollars flooding the airwaves trying to tear Burgess down?”

Brown says, “Yes, he failed, as we all do. But, more importantly, he refused to believe he was a victim, picked himself up, and eventually succeeded.”

Brown then tries to turn the tables on McAdams, saying he is a tool of Nancy Pelosi and that he will “spend literally millions of dollars in the next two months defaming a hardworking man whose story epitomizes everything good about America.”

McAdams has done a pretty good job inoculating himself against negative attacks and charges that he’s a Pelosi Democrat. His immense ad buy prominently features his attractive family with messages about fiscal prudence and protecting Utahns from nuclear testing. He has other people attack Owens, maintaining his nice guy image.

I think McAdams has the edge. He’s had the money to define himself and frame the race. Burgess is way behind on exposure and name ID. And his strong embrace of Pres. Trump cuts both ways in the district.

But it all may still come down to whether Republicans can get a big turnout in Utah County. They failed to do so two years ago, and that’s why Mia Love is no longer a congresswoman.

Parting shot. Some time ago, my wife, Jan, and I picked up five chicken hens in cardboard boxes from our daughter’s house in Centerville to take to our farm a couple of hours away. We had to make a few stops during the trip and it was a hot day. So Jan had to stay in the truck with the chickens because we didn’t want to be arrested for leaving chickens unattended in a hot vehicle.

The hens, by the way, have integrated with our flock and are doing fine.