You may have heard that seven-term Utah Democrat Jim Matheson isn’t seeking an eighth term, because, as the National Republican Congressional Committee will tell you:
“It’s telling that Matheson, who didn’t even vote for ObamaCare’s original passage, knows he can’t run and win in this climate,” said Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “If it’s this bad for him, imagine how bad 2014 will be for the vast majority of Democrats who actually supported ObamaCare from its start.”
Ah, ObamaCare and 2014: what a sordid romance it shall be. More on that at a later date, though.
Matheson retiring means that his 2012 opponent, Mia Love, is now the front-runner for that seat. If she wins, she’d be the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican. Considering the party struggles fairly mightily with diversity, this is somewhat of a big story. The problem is, while Mia Love should be a slam dunk in her district, she might not actually be. She lost to Matheson after getting a plum speaking spot at the GOP Convention in Tampa (embedded above) and literally being one of the GOP’s faces of diversity over the past 12-15 months. But, she lost. How? Simple. She wasn’t very organized. Check this out:
Monson said the Love campaign displayed some disorganization early on, probably due to inexperience. The state and national parties have helped her work through some of those bumps, he said. Love has changed campaign managers several times since April. Currently it’s Matt Holton, a former staffer for Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
That quote came from Quin Monson of BYU, FYI.
Other issues: while this is a good thing for some, she’s extremely conservative on some issues. For example, she has favored ending the federal school lunch program and totally axing student loans; she’s also referred to herself (apparently) as “an anchor baby” (a child born in the U.S. to immigrants hoping to become legal). Then there’s this: many, including many within Utah, view her as another Sarah Palin. (Another thing she’s had trouble with is the “all style, no substance” branding, as did Palin.)
Now, the timing of Matheson’s exit does make it hard for any potential challengers to line up and face Love — she has a semi-national name and good fundraising coffers, so a Democrat emerging in a state where Romney won 72 percent is probably unlikely. There is a chance that new GOP candidates may come out of the woodwork, but even they would face challenges: Kirk Jowers of the University of Utah notes that —
“I expect other challengers, and the right one could make it interesting,” Jowers said. “But the big question is whether the so-called right one would want a piece of the Mia Love machine at this late point.”
Currently, Love’s only opponent is Bob Fuehr. It could be a serious rout. The finances? Love has $671K on hand as of Thanksgiving. Fuehr has $4K. That’s not a typo. She has 167 times more money on hand than her current main challenger.
Bottom line with her and 2014 is fairly simple, then: someone could step up and challenge her, but in all likelihood, Congress will gain its first black female Republican. So then the bigger question becomes — what next? Love is 38. She could be a multi-term Congresswoman and still barely be in her mid-40s. If the GOP flops against Hilary (or whomever) in ’16 and it flops because of minority turnout, you gotta think Love — if she can shore up her issues about campaigning and re-brand herself — could be a person the party elite look to down the road. Orrin Hatch is 79. He won election in 2012, but there’s almost no way he’s going for election in 2018. Mike Lee, on the other hand, is 42 and next up in 2016. It’s doubtful Love would step on him unless he does something to seriously alienate the party, but that 2018 opening is something to consider. Gary Herbert (the Governor) is next up in 2016; he’s 66 now, so that could be a potential opening. For Love to go really big, you’d have to assume she needs to spend 4-6 in the House then become a Senator or a Governor. The Herbert and Hatch spots seem the most likely for that to occur.
I wouldn’t go ahead and put Love’s name on your presumptive 2032 Presidential ballot or anything, but she’s definitely a person that bears watching on the GOP side over the next half-decade or so.