Utah Democrat Jim Matheson is staying in Congress. After a very close race against Tea Party darling Mia Love, polls announced Matheson as the winner. It’s a race that’s been closely watched. If elected, Love would’ve been the first African American Republican woman elected to Congress. The Matheson victory came by a narrow margin; candidates had a difference of less than 2,900 votes. This will mark Matheson’s 7th term, but his first victory in Utah’s new 4th district.
Love’s loss came despite huge influxes of donations and attention to the campaign. After Love took the national stage at the Republican National Convention, GOP donors flooded her campaign with money and name recognition. The Saratoga Springs mayor even enjoyed endorsements and commercial ads from Mitt Romney, who was hugely popular in Utah.
It made a tough race for Matheson, one marked by negative ads and mudslinging. Matheson accused Love of raising taxes, endangering police officers and threatening education. Love swung back, counting on President Obama’s unpopularity in Utah and accusing Matheson of supporting Obamacare and standing with the president against Utah values. She also suggested Matheson planted a story with newsgroups which questioned her immigrant story credentials. They both seemed smirky and snide at points throughout their campaigns.
Mia Love has been mum on issues, while Jim Matheson’s record and positions are relatively transparent. Love’s strategy of saying a lot without saying much ultimately worked against her. She resisted offering specifics (her website only lists three vague issues) throughout her campaign, counting on implications of conservatism and GOP endorsements (and funds) to carry her. It’s a strategy played in other recent elections, though not one that served Mia Love well.
Perhaps remaining mum could have helped Mitt Romney in the presidential races. The presidential candidate’s campaign was littered by Romney’s foot-in-mouth moments that alienated him among voters. Though Romney took Utah’s vote by a wide margin, Romney’s popularity in Utah didn’t unseat Matheson.
Matheson anticipated a tight race from the beginning, but it looks like for now, Matheson’s new post is safe.
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