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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: The best and worst from Utah's election season

Published: Sunday, Nov. 7 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Pignanelli & Webb: The ramifications of last week's historic elections will be analyzed extensively in days to come. In Utah, both parties fought hard up and down the ballot, with Republicans increasing their already-dominant control of Utah politics. Before Tuesday's results become a distant memory, we provide some "Best and Worst" 2010 election observations:

Best yard sign in 2010: Every Utahn in the Second Congressional District who drove, walked and crawled outside their home was confronted with the simple, black-and-white sign: "Matheson = Pelosi". Even in intersections cluttered by signs touting numerous candidates, these placards stood out. Most Utahns have a visceral negative reaction to the soon-to-be former speaker, and reminding them that Matheson had some indirect link to her was effective. This constant and consistent message caused erosion in the support of Republican men for Democrat Jim Matheson. What Utahns may not know is that the signs were printed by the Tea Party group "FreedomWorks" and were distributed by the Glen Beck 9/12 activists. Similar signs were used in a number of other states. Yard sign runner-up: The cute dinosaur-shaped yard signs colored by children and families, supporting the Museum of Natural History's bond election.

Worst use of resources: Most, if not all, the boneheaded mistakes made by campaigns during this election season were fostered by an overpaid out-of-state consultant. Every two years, many Republicans and Democrats seeking election to the major offices pay huge sums of money for advice from "experts" who are clueless about Utahns. Utah candidates possessing common sense in other endeavors fall in love with some political hack who won a race on the west or east coast, and convinces Utah candidates that similar tactics can be deployed in Utah.

Best TV commercials: Utahns watching a late-night infomercial or cable TV may have caught Morgan Philpot's campaign commercials (limited resources prevented him from placing the ad in expensive TV timeslots). The ads featured a clever high-tech, fast-paced look and feel of an iPad delivering Philpot's messages. Runners-up: Matheson's rolling up the sleeves confirmation of his maverick independence; Gov. Gary Herbert's focus on businesses and jobs coming to Utah under his leadership.

Worst use of a Chicago political machine analogy: During a Doug Wright KSL radio interview, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Corroon compared Herbert to former Illinois governor and convicted felon Rod Blagojevich. Even wavering independents and moderate Republicans worried about Herbert's alleged coziness with contributors were offended by this insult and rallied to Utah's chief executive. Further, this attack right from Corroon's own mouth destroyed his image as a nice guy.

Best performance as a martyred victim: Herbert ran as a well-funded popular Republican, in a Republican state, during a Republican tidal wave. In other words, he had everything going for him. But Corroon clearly got under Herbert's skin when he launched negative attacks to try to make up a 25-point deficit. Herbert complained bitterly about the unfairness of it all. Normally, Utahns like their candidates to have a thicker skin, but this year their sympathies were with Herbert. To the credit of Hebert campaign strategists, they never responded in kind to Corroon (although they had attack ads ready to go if needed). They watched the survey research carefully and never felt a need to respond.

Worst repeated use of a tired old argument: Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Democrats continue to believe that Utahns care about the imbalance of power in state government. They do not. (Repeat: They do not). The election-year complaint about one-party domination has been a loser for decades. Democrats need to junk it and craft more persuasive appeals.

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