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Cannon, Chaffetz in a tie

Pollster says getting out the vote Tuesday is key

Published: Saturday, June 21 2008 12:02 a.m. MDT

The Republican race for the 3rd Congressional District is close — so close, in fact, that it's a statistical tie, a new poll shows.

Whether Rep. Chris Cannon or challenger Jason Chaffetz advance to the November final election — where either man would be the favorite — depends on which Republican can get his supporters to the polls Tuesday, a just-completed survey for the Deseret News and KSL-TV found.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates, in a survey of registered voters completed Thursday night, found that if the election were today, 44 percent favor Cannon while 40 percent like Chaffetz. But the margin of error in the sample of 312 registered voters is plus or minus 5.5 percent.

That means Cannon's support could be as high as 49.5 percent and as low as 39.5 percent, while Chaffetz's could be as high as 45.5 percent and as low as 34.5 percent.

Jones' survey also shows that 15 percent of voters are still undecided.

"That is a high number for such a high-profile race," said Jones. "And more and more, (pollsters) are finding that those undecideds actually make up their minds in the polling booth." That not only makes it tougher to poll in a race, it also makes it difficult for candidates to identify who they want to get to the polls — for you don't want to encourage people to vote if they vote against you.

The key for both men, said Jones, who has polled in Utah for 30 years, is "who gets their real supporters to the polls."

And in that key component, Chaffetz may actually have a leg up, notes Jones. Chaffetz's voters "are more enthusiastic."

To measure enthusiasm, Jones asks the voters the degree of their interest in the 3rd District GOP race — a key measuring stick that Jones has used over the years.

And among those who said they are "very interested," Chaffetz leads Cannon 46 percent to 38 percent. Among those who said they are Republicans, Cannon leads 49-37 percent. However, independents can vote in the GOP primary as well. And Chaffetz leads among independents 46-31 percent.

The Utah Republican Party holds closed primaries. And only those registered as a Republican can vote in the 3rd District race Tuesday. However, Utah law allows an independent voter — one who is officially "unaffiliated" in their voter registration — to register as a Republican at the polls Tuesday and get a GOP ballot.

Accordingly, Jones informed those he polled about the closed primary qualifications and then asked if they were likely to vote. Nearly three of four said they were planning on voting — although Jones himself said the turnout will be much lower than that.

Despite the close poll numbers, Cannon still has the incumbency working for him, historically a stronger position than being the challenger.

Just before the 2006 GOP primary, Jones found that Cannon was 13 percentage points up on his intra-party challenger, John Jacob. And Cannon won by about 12 points — so that year Jones' survey was right on.

But polls are not meant to be predictors of actual events, only a statistically accurate finding at the point in time they are taken, Jones warns.

"I don't see this as very good voter turnout this year," said Jones, "and that's too bad." Jones sees maybe only 15 percent to 20 percent of 3rd District voters going to the polls Tuesday — less than 10 percent of voters going to the polls across the rest of the state.

The only statewide primary is a Republican contest for state treasurer, where chief deputy treasurer Richard Ellis faces state Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy.

There is a state House Democratic primary in District 69, which is headquartered in Price. There are also two GOP state House and one GOP state Senate primaries in northern Utah, and a few county council and commission primaries scattered around the state.

Outside of partisan politics, Tuesday is the final election for a number of Jordan School District posts in southern Salt Lake County.

The 3rd District takes in all but the northeast corner of Utah County, the western side of Salt Lake County, the Nephi area of Juab County and the counties of Sanpete, Sevier, Millard and Beaver. So only voters there will get a Cannon/Chaffetz ballot.

Cannon seeks his seventh, two-year term in office. He unseated Democratic Rep. Bill Orton in 1996.

Chaffetz is the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. It is Chaffetz's first run for public office.

The 3rd District race has turned a bit bitter. Cannon is charging that Chaffetz is constantly "misrepresenting me and my positions." Chaffetz says Cannon is not telling the truth about his own congressional record. Just this past week, Cannon had to demand that one of his paid campaign staffers take down the worker's personal Web site, which Chaffetz says allowed readers to call him names and spread untrue rumors about Chaffetz.

Readers can find the men's stands on 20 issues asked by the newspaper at deseretnews.com. The two don't differ substantially on those issues, except that Chaffetz says he will listen to constituents (Cannon has not, he claims), and Cannon says it is unwise to change a "conservative" congressman now with so many important Utah issues before Congress.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com

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