Rep. Jim Matheson’s retirement means the Democratic hold on Utah’s 4th District is all but over. Matheson represented the most Republican district held by a Democrat in the House. Now that he’s not running for re-election, his party will be hard-pressed to replace him.
The presidential numbers are dismal for Democrats in this district. Mitt Romney carried the 4th District, 67 percent to 30 percent, in 2012. John McCain won it, 56 percent to 40 percent, in 2008. And President George W. Bush won it, 66 percent to 31 percent, in 2004.
But one of the most alarming results was last year’s congressional election. Matheson, who has been elected to Congress seven times and is widely-regarded as running one of the best campaign operations, narrowly won re-election in 2012. The congressman defeated Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, 48.8 percent to 48.5 percent — a margin of 768 votes.
It’s hard to imagine Democrats finding a magical candidate who can replicate Matheson’s success in what could be a worse political environment for President Barack Obama’s party. We’re moving Utah’s 4th District from a Pure Tossup to Safe for Republicans according to Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
That being said, there is no guarantee that Love will be the nominee in 2014. She is running again, and is running a revamped campaign, but it’s hard to believe that other Republicans won’t take another look now that Matheson is gone. Love successfully navigated the party convention process the first time and may need to do so again. Stay tuned.