Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Matheson competitive in Utah Senate

Democrats really do have a chance to be competitive in the US Senate race in Utah next year, but that potential for a close contest is completely predicated on Congressman Jim Matheson taking the plunge. Other potential Democratic nominees we looked at- even though they're well liked by voters in the state- would lose by the sorts of astronomical margins Democrats are accustomed to losing by in Utah.

Matheson would lead incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch 45-44 in a head to head, and would hold a wider lead over fellow Congressman Jason Chaffetz at 47-42.

Part of the reason that Matheson would be so competitive is that there are some signs of weakness in Hatch and Chaffetz's numbers. Only 46% of voters approve of Hatch to 43% who disapprove. He is extremely weak with independents these days, as only 27% give him good marks to 60% who disapprove. And Democrats (71%) are more unified in their dislike of Hatch than Republicans (67%) are in their support.

Chaffetz does a little better than Hatch, with 43% of voters rating him favorably to 34% with an unfavorable opinion. Independents split against him 33/47, and 65% of Democrats have a dim view of him while only 61% of Republicans see him positively. In most states a 43/34 favorability spread for a Congressman looking to move up to the Senate would be a very good start. But in a small state with nearly a 30 point Republican identification advantage Chaffetz's numbers are not terribly impressive.

The main reason Matheson is so strong against Hatch and Chaffetz is Matheson though. 59% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him to 28% with an unfavorable one, amazing numbers for a Democrat in one of the reddest states in the country. He's viewed favorably by majorities of Democrats (76/15), independents (58/28), and Republicans (52/33) alike. There are few politicians who pull that off. Matheson manages to lead Hatch because he wins over 20% of the GOP vote and leads by 37 points with independents. Against Chaffetz he goes all the way up to 23% of the Republican vote and holds a similar 35 point lead with independents.

Matheson is the only way this race is competitive for Democrats next year. We also tested former Attorney General Jan Graham, the last Democrat elected statewide in Utah, and 2010 nominee Sam Granato. Graham (27/18) and Granato (28/22) are both decently popular, particularly for Democrats in Utah. But Graham nevertheless trails Hatch by 21 points at 55-34 and Chaffetz by 19 at 53-34. And Granato's deficits are even wider, down 25 to Hatch at 56-31 and 21 to Chaffetz at 54-33.

If Matheson runs it will certainly be the most national attention a political race in Utah has drawn in many, many years.

Full results here


Anonymous said...

Ugh, Matheson would be to the right of Sens. Nelson and Manchin and would become Fox's go-to Dem for bashing Dems but if he casts a vote against Sen. DeMint as Majority Leader, I suppose he's worth it.

Anonymous said...

He has supported some democratic initiatives such as DADT repeal. He's 100x better than Jason Chaffetz or dumb-ass-health-care-bill-i-hate-poor-people Orrin Hatch.

I'm surprised to see him doing better over Jason Chaffetz. I thought Hatch was less popular. Do you think polls like this will affect who the GOP chooses as their candidate?

wt said...

Matheson would make it a fight, but in a presidential year he'll inevitably be tied to Obama and the other Senate Democrats. The GOP voters would almost certainly come home on election day. (You can also imagine Romney campaigning for Hatch or Chaffetz if he's the nominee).

I Am Iron Man said...

Now this would be a true miracle... if the Democrats can win a Senate seat in Utah... that would be mighty fine indeed.

I know people on my side (the left) will say we don't need anymore conservative Democrats, but I disagree. I think that's short sighted. A conservative Democrat is still better than a right wing Republican. They will at least be with the party on some important votes and that does make a real difference.

Anonymous said...

So wait, progressives here are rooting for Matheson to defeat Chaffetz? Even though Matheson voted to extend all provisions of the Patriot Act while Chaffetz voted to kill all provisions of the Patriot Act? Matheson voted to protect all funding for the war in Afghanistan while Chaffetz voted to end war funding? Seems to me Chaffetz has the more progressive record

Anonymous said...

"Seems to me Chaffetz has the more progressive record"

Haha, please. I know conservatives are quite used to being regarded as ignorant but that doesn't work with progressives - no matter how many times you guys try to tell us Ron Paul or Chaffetz are "more progressive" than a blue dog dem or anyone else for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Also, Matheson and all the blue dogs were still smart enough to stay as far away from Paul Ryan's budget plan as possible. Can't say the same for "more progressive" Chaffetz.

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