Last night, or early this morning, I engaged in some hyperbolic jousting over Twitter with the inestimable Deb Henry, a candidate for Vice Chair of the Utah Democratic Party.
Amidst the trash talk, Deb reminded the world why she is running for Vice Chair of the Utah Democratic Party (yes, our state has one).
As I read her comment, I couldn’t help but wonder: can Utah really elect any more Democrats than they already do? In that vein of thought, wouldn’t it make more sense that to win you would need to increasingly be a Republican in this state? You know: if you can’t beat’m, join’m.
C’mon over, Deb. Our Party needs people who like to sing in the gallery, too. (Just to be clear, I have the best of regards for Deb. But what would I be if I didn’t tease?)
Back to the point: can Democrats win in Utah? More than the few seats they already have? Except for a few pockets in Salt Lake, Utah’s elected offices are increasingly filled by Republicans. Further, with the population growth in the south parts of Salt Lake Valley, northern Utah Valley, and Utah’s Dixie, it’s likely that redistricting will leave multiple Democratic legislators standing when the music stops and fewer Salt Lake “seats” are left (Ross Romero for Mayor, anyone?).
Not only is population growing in traditionally conservative areas of the state, but the state seems to increasingly identify with the Republican Party over Democrats.
Enter BYU’s Adam Brown, a regular brainiac and number crunching professor of Political Science. Tracking the political identification over the last couple decades, he points to growth in the GOP as a reason that, conceivably, Republicans could capture all four Congressional seats come November 2012.
Both figures show a continuing movement toward the GOP in the 2000s (with a slight reversal in 2008 and 2010). This movement toward the GOP represents a continuation of a rightward trend that began decades ago, following a New Deal-era period of Democratic strength in the state.
Republicans are hoping to draw four Republican-majority districts. With these partisan shifts, they could probably accomplish that. (Of course, simply drawing four Republican-majority districts doesn’t mean that Rep. Matheson won’t keep winning in one of them. He’s been winning in a Republican majority district for a decade now. But we’ll address Rep. Matheson in a few days.)
Observations? Looking closely, you can see that the trends do show an uptick in Democratic identification at the same time, if not as sharply. The losers are the Independents who, after surging to vote for Obama in 2008, have taken a sharp turn down as they joined the Tea Party during 2010. Does this indicate polarization of the electorate? Perhaps.
Republicans, fewer people voting for Democrats. Does that translate into four Republican Representatives from Utah? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Matheson has been hard to beat in the past. You can bet dollars for donuts that he’s not going away without a fight. Or without running for Governor.
- The next US attorney for Utah: a Republican? (lawafterthebar.wordpress.com)
- Utah congressmen call for federal prosecutor for Utah ()
- GOP presidential contenders drift to the right (seattletimes.nwsource.com)