Many Democrats are hoping former Rep. Jim Matheson decides to run for Governor in 2016. They should be careful what they wish for.
A new UtahPolicy.com survey finds Matheson would have a tough time if he faced off against Gov. Gary Herbert in 2016. 57% say they would either "definitely" or "probably" vote for Herbert while only 33% say Matheson. 11% of voters say they're undecided.
Those numbers underscore the difficulty any Democratic candidate would have to win a statewide race in Utah. Matheson probably has the highest name recognition of any Democrat in the state, yet he can only muster 33% support.
Even though Herbert would win, it would still be a closer race than 2012 where Herbert bested Democrat Peter Cooke by a 68-28% margin. The numbers are in line with the 2010 gubernatorial contest when Herbert beat another well-known Democrat, Peter Corroon, by a 64-32% tally.
During his 12 years in Congress, Matheson was able to win the support of a significant number of Republicans and independent voters. That's how he was able to prevail in a number of close elections. Our survey shows that winning equation would not be there for him if he ran for statewide office. Only 11% of Republicans and 38% of independent voters would cast a ballot for Matheson. Meanwhile, Herbert pulls in 81% of Republicans and 45% of independents.
While Herbert is the only candidate who has made his intentions about 2016 known, we decided to test the electability of some of those who might be mulling a statewide run.
We asked voters about Herbert, Overstock.com Chairman of the Board Jonathan Johnson, Matheson, and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
Nobody gets a majority in our survey. Herbert scores 48%. Matheson is second at 23%. McAdams is next with 10% support while Johnson pulls in the votes of 4% in our survey. 15% say they would be undecided.
The results are likely just a reflection of name ID right now.
Dave Hansen, who has signed on as a political consultant for Johnson, says, "Johnathan is not a candidate yet, and polls like this are meaningless. Jonathan has not been in the public eye for 30 years, so he hasn't been able to build up his public image like some others."
When the results are broken down by party ID, Herbert is the first choice of Republicans by a wide margin while Matheson is the top choice by Democrats. Independent voters mostly lean toward Herbert while about a quarter pick Matheson.
Gary Herbert (R)
Jonathan Johnson (R)
Jim Matheson (D)
Ben McAdams (D)
Our survey was conducted by Dan Jones and Associates from March 30-April 7, 2015. 601 registered voters were contacted via telephone and online means. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.0%