Today, in Salt Lake Magazine, Rebecca Walsh writes what is probably best described as “free advertising”. With almost no news worthy event to write about, Walsh goes after the obvious topic of concern to Salt Lake: how Jim Matheson wins reelection.
And his opponent this year is an unusual (but compelling) novelty in Utah politics: African-American Mormon Mia Love. It’s not inconceivable that the moderate Utah Republicans who vote for Matheson will want to rebut the idea that race has anything to do with their opposition to Obama by voting for Love. Scott Matheson’s son is a canny politician. In office since 2001, he’s held off six conservative challengers—in redder-than-red Utah. Whatever he’s doing is working.
You may not know what he stands for, but Jim Matheson knows how to survive.
Really. With with a Republican Primary nearly upon us–which means a race for Attorney General, Auditor, US Senator, and a County Mayor (PS vote Mark Crockett), at least–Walsh opts to cover the race that is all but on the back-burner until after June 26th.
My problem with the piece is that it is obviously a fluff piece for Jim Matheson that his campaign should probably have paid for the advertising. After running through a series of issues on which Matheson voted with the rest of the Utah delegation on (War in Iraq, Bush tax cuts), and conceding that Matheson did support Obamacare (there’s just no way getting around that one, even if Walsh calls it “splitting the difference), Walsh essentially calls Matheson a DINO. That is, a Democrat in Name Only.
But for all intents and purposes, Matheson is a moderate Republican. In any other state, he’d be a good conservative.
Then why isn’t he? Truth to tell, this is part of the narrative that Democrats want Republicans to believe so that they will vote for the six term Democrat. Matheson is no more a moderate Republican than California is culturally Utahn. At best, Matheson is conservative Democrat who picks and chooses his battles to put up enough votes to tout on literature and the phone town halls he does (I’ve never been able to find a Matheson showing up at a real town hall. I suspect they’re too unpredictable for him.
But back to the question: “How Matheson Survives.” After all, that is the headline.
Unfortunately, Walsh never answers, likely because she doesn’t have an answer. Other than recapping Matheson’s past elections (a dismissing his opponents’ differences as little more than preference over who they would vote for as Speaker of the House), Walsh’s whole argument seems to be that Matheson will survive because Matheson wants to extend the Bush tax cuts. If that’s it, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: so does the Republican challenger, Mia Love.
Except that Mia Love will vote to extend the tax cuts, too, and even maybe make them permanent, as part of a Republican majority, allowing her more influence in proposing legislation, speaking out for Utah, and fighting wasteful government spending. Further, Love can do something Matheson can never do: take on Democrats for their big spending policies. Even if he wanted to, assuming for a moment that he is little more than a moderate Republican, Matheson could never take on Democrats for their spending and taxing. He never has and he’s not given any indication that he will now. That’s just not how he rolls.
How he rolls is to keep his head low, talk a good game, and avoid hot button issues.
- Matheson has never been on the ballot in his new district. After jumping ship on his District 2, Matheson now faces an electorate in District 4 that has never voted for him. He has some incumbency advantage due to name ID, but due more to his family than to himself.
- The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved almost a million dollars in television advertising in Salt Lake’s media market to support Mia Love’s election. Most years, the Republican nominee against Matheson is lucky if he can get the attention of the national Republicans any time before September, let alone in June. Not only is the NRCC jumping in, but Rep. Paul Ryan, budget hawk superstar, is coming to Salt Lake to fund-raise for Mia later this month.
- The excitement factor surrounding Mia Love is palpable, and it’s an advantage the Jim just can’t create. No other candidate against Matheson has ever excited this kind of interest, and that excitement is likely to carry on through November.
So how does Matheson survive? Really, I can see just one way: run television ads from now until election day and hope that no one makes an effort to point out his weaknesses as a Democrat during a Republican majority Congress.
- Love confident heading into fierce battle with Matheson ()
- Matheson’s Re-election Is On the Rocks (publiusonline.com)
- The next US attorney for Utah: a Republican? (lawafterthebar.wordpress.com)
- Mia Love secures GOP nomination in Utah’s 4th congressional district (twitchy.com)