August 15, 2008
Utah Democrats Hoping for a Few Small Victories
By Bob Bernick Jr. Deseret News
Utah Democratic Party leaders are hoping for a good showing this election year.
And in what's called the "reddest" state in the Union, it takes only small victories to make Utah Democrats feel good.
Democrats, of course, want to keep U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D- Utah, in his 2nd Congressional District.
And if legislative races break the right way, they could pick up five or six Utah House seats and one or two state Senate contests -- which would be nice but still keep Democrats in a small minority in the Legislature.
But that is about the best Democrats can hope for.
GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is well-funded and well-liked. Democrat Bob Springmeyer can only hope that Huntsman somehow self-destructs, and that is not likely.
Likewise, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who has made some poor political moves this year, also appears safe.
Republican primary voters may have dumped six-term Congressman Chris Cannon for Jason Chaffetz, but Chaffetz is proving a good, attractive candidate. And he should have little trouble in the final election in the 3rd Congressional District, one of the most Republican in the nation.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has made a career of keeping his head down, raising adequate funds and winning re-election easily.
There is no U.S. Senate race in Utah this year.
So, even though gasoline prices are the fourth-highest in the nation, home foreclosures are shooting through the roof here and state tax revenues are down, Utahns don't seem as upset or dissatisfied as other Americans.
Democrats may make a good showing in Salt Lake County -- perhaps even take control of county government. But that is hardly groundbreaking Or, I should say, not groundbreaking except for Utah Democrats, who take their victories where they can get them.
There is, however, one wild card still out there.
Will John McCain pick Mitt Romney as his vice presidential running mate?
It would be a pick that could drive a stake in the heart of Utah Democrats' campaigns.
Romney is basically a Utah "favorite son" candidate.
He won Utah's Feb. 5 presidential GOP primary with 90 percent of the vote. McCain got 5 percent.
Romney is LDS. He went to Brigham Young University. He took over and saved the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, raising the money for and repairing the scandal-ridden reputation of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee.
Utahns love Romney. They ponied up more than $6 million for Romney's unsuccessful presidential run this year. Romney raised more money only in California for his campaign.
If Romney is on the Republican Party's national ticket, it will energize Utah Republicans, even some independents.
November's voter turnout will soar. And more Republicans, conservatives and Mormons voting almost always means more votes for GOP candidates in Utah.
As it stands now, Democrats think they have a shot at state Sens. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, and Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. Half a dozen House Republicans are also vulnerable, Democrats believe, even Speaker of the House Greg Curtis, R-Sandy.
Democrats are armed with the anti-voucher votes of November 2007, when over the approval of most GOP legislators citizens voted down the private school tuition subsidization law. In races like Walker's Senate District 8, where vouchers lost 66-34 percent, Democrats think they have a cutting, defining issue.
But Romney on the presidential ticket will blunt all of that.
Yes, a McCain-Romney ticket would mean another struggling year for Utah Democrats.
Deseret News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e- mail at [email protected]
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