First of all, sorry for such a heavy Matheson/Love week on the blog, just the way these things go sometimes.
By now we are all aware of the recent Dan Jones poll showing Mia Love ahead of Representative Jim Matheson by six points. But, with a with margin of error of +/- 5%, this is a dead heat to say the least. This is got me thinking about the national election and how this race represents the political shifts the taking place in the electorate over the past 12 years. In many ways, the Love/Matheson race is a microcosm of the national election and may very well represent a high or low tide (depending on your political persuasion) in the heart and soul of the American electorate.
Most notably, of course, this race chronicles the rise of the Tea Party and its success in getting far-right candidates on to ballots then subsequently and wining local, state, and national elections. At the same time is also shows that there may be weariness towards the Tea Party and the subsequent voter fatigue that may come to a head in November. Even in Utah, many Republicans and Independents have shown signs that they do not care for far-right policies, and we have to wonder if this will translate to Republicans and Independents staying home or siding with Matheson.
But this race goes beyond that.
On the one hand, you have a moderate incumbent who is not necessarily on the same side as party leadership on the issues, and (much to the chagrin of many Democrats) will be bipartisan on issues. Indeed Matheson truly is a moderate, a rarity in Washington, for sure. Now, from a philosophical standpoint we should praise this, however in the current political environment is been the source of much hand-wringing by the voters from both sides of the aisle. Conversely, this race features a relative outsider: the mayor of a town of less than 20,000 who very much aligns with far right wings of the Republican Party, possesses a charisma about her that appeals to the base, and has strong support from outside interest groups and the national GOP.
We must also add the fact that the district these two are running in have been, at the very least, favors Republicans – a district drawn by Republicans who are not so secretive about their desire to boot any Democrat from office, regardless of how helpful he might have been to the state…some would say (myself included) that the seat was gerrymandered – but no one can dispute that the seat does have right leanings. The gerrymandering of districts has become a greater problem during the last go-around because statehouses across the country have become more polarized, leading to both Republicans and Democrats in state houses to draw up questionable districts.
We should also consider the influence of PAC money. I have never seen the type of political ads running on behalf of either candidate quite like the ones I have seen during this election cycle. It is clear that these outside groups are willing to take far more negative tactics than what is generally considered acceptable by politicos in the state; these third parties are running fast and loose with the facts and are creating a less educated electorate. These types of advertisements are only possible because of the Citizens United decision and the subsequent unlimited spending currently allowed; they also show that even we here in Utah we are not immune to the nasty attack ads that usually only run in other states. I, for one, am disturbed that this may lead to a trend in Utah politics and result in a more jaded public – hell, I know many people of both political persuasions who were waiting for something like Citizens United to allow them to open up the flood gates.
Also, this is the first time since the new districts have been drawn that voter ID laws will be put to the test – and it may be the first time we truly see the chilling effect of such laws. Two things I wish to point out at this topic: 1) Utah’s voter ID laws have been in existence of 2009, so we have already gone through one election cycle with them, and 2) keep your eye out for a voter ID blog or series of blogs to come out in the near future about this very topic.
So what will Utahns and national voters finally decide upon with all of this information? Moderates who tend not to tow the party line but have a proven track record of success, or populist radicals with little national experience?
Whats the most recent polls as close as they are I can honestly not call this race, and neither can anyone else. It will be interesting to see who does ultimately turn out and more interesting to see if this little race of ours really does mirror the national discussion or if I’m just up in the night.