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Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah
Public Policy Polling (PDF) (7/8-10, Utah voters, no trendlines):
Jim Matheson (D): 45
Orrin Hatch (R-inc): 44
Undecided: 11

Jim Matheson (D): 47
Jason Chaffetz (R): 42
Undecided: 11

Jan Graham (D): 34
Orrin Hatch (R-inc): 55
Undecided: 12

Jan Graham (D): 34
Jason Chaffetz (R): 53
Undecided: 14

Sam Granato (D): 31
Orrin Hatch (R-inc): 56
Undecided: 13

Sam Granato (D): 33
Jason Chaffetz (R): 54
Undecided: 13
(MoE: ±3.6%)

Well, here's today's spit-out-the-coffee-on-your-monitor polling result: Public Policy Polling finds that not only is a Democrat competitive in one of the nation's reddest states, but is in fact in the lead. Of course, that's limited entirely to only one Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson, a member of a local political dynasty (his father, Scott Matheson, was the last Democratic governor of the state, from 1977 to 1985, and his brother Scott Jr. was the 2004 Democratic gubernatorial nominee).

Between his high name rec and the goodwill accorded to his family (good for stratospheric 59/28 favorables statewide) and his moderate reputation (he's one of the last remaining core Blue Dogs, holding down the second-reddest district held by a Dem, which went 39 percent for Obama), he's able to eke out narrow victories over the GOP field. That's despite both likely opponents having positive favorables too: longtime Senator Orrin Hatch is at 46/43 and loses by 1, while Rep. Jason Chaffetz, likely to challenge Hatch at the GOP convention (and likely to win, if Bob Bennett's untimely end in 2010 is any indication), is at 43/34 and loses by 5. The other two Dems tested by PPP, former AG Jan Graham and state Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control chairman and 2010 nominee Sam Granato, by comparison, both get obliterated.

If this poll came out of the blue, I'd assume they were smoking something pretty powerful over at PPP HQ. However, last month a poll from generally-well-regarded local pollster Dan Jones showed that Matheson was surprisingly competitive, and this poll just serves to confirm that. (That poll, from 6/13-16, had Matheson tied at 47-47 with Hatch and beating Chaffetz 46-45, and was really the first inkling anyone had that Matheson could make this a real race.)

Of course, all this depends on whether Matheson actually runs. He's been saying some statewide-sounding things lately, but that might be using the threat of a competitive statewide race to help manipulate the local GOP to give him a relatively safe House district concentrated in the Salt Lake City area instead of trying to draw him out by cracking SLC four ways to create four dark red districts. (These two possible approaches to Utah redistricting are known as the "donut hole" and "pizza" maps, respectively.) But with numbers like these, Matheson might feel the time is ripe to go statewide regardless of what happens with the fate of UT-02 ... either in the Senate race, or the gubernatorial race, which is also up in 2012. (Presumably PPP will have Gov. numbers too, as well as numbers on the GOP primary, which may also weigh on Matheson's calculations, to the extent that he'd probably rather face the tea-flavored Chaffetz than the allegedly statesmanlike Hatch.)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 01:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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