There's a very real chance that the government could shut down sometime in the next few weeks if Congressional Republicans vote to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood. While one could expect Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation to bear some of the blame for a shutdown, it could hit Love hard in 2016.
When she was running for the open 4th District seat vacated by Jim Matheson in 2014, her Democratic opponent Doug Owens hit her repeatedly for cheering on the 2013 government shutdown led, in part, by Sen. Mike Lee. Owens even held a campaign kick-off press conference at the same location of a pro-shutdown rally attended by Love and Lee.
That 2013 shutdown cost the state tens of millions of dollars in tourism and jobs. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, recognizing the economic damage, made the decision to spend state money to open the state's national parks.
If we see another shutdown, it could be a potent issue in a race she won last time by a scant 5,000 votes.
Last week Love voted to defund Planned Parenthood. If it leads to another shutdown, expect Owens and Democrats to jump all over the issue. They're already making political hay over her trip to Washington for the White House Correspondents Dinner using taxpayer money. Love claims she held a meeting with staffers that weekend, which would justify the expense, but she has since reimbursed her Congressional account for the travel. If there's another shutdown, Owens will hammer her over it again and again and again. Democrats will do their best to make her the face of another government shutdown.
Love has painted herself into a corner here. She attended a rally against Planned Parenthood in Utah, then famously teared up while discussing the issue with Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business Channel show. After that interview, the Washington Post screamed in a headline "This is the Mia Love Republicans have been waiting for."
Love's only option was to vote to remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Now she's at the mercy of the Senate. She will be praying that saner heads prevail and avert a shutdown, essentially saving herself from herself.
Since her election in 2014, Love has mostly kept her head down, avoiding controversy. That has been a smart move after barely losing to Jim Matheson in 2012 and barely beating Owens in 2014. She hasn't given the Democrats much ammunition to work with. A shutdown could change all of that in an instant.
Utah's 4th District, while overwhelmingly Republican, is not a slam dunk for Love. I get the sense that voters there don't fully trust her yet. Her time as Mayor of Saratoga Springs was not without controversy, and her constituents are watching carefully. Laying the blame for another economically disastrous shutdown at her feet could make her 2016 re-election bid treacherous.
Right now, the 2016 math favors Love's re-election.
A government shutdown could add an unexpected variable to what is, for now, a predictable equation.