Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Could Love oust Matheson in Utah's new 4th District?

Published: Sunday, May 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Webb: On paper, Mia Love should defeat Matheson rather handily. All she has to do is corral Republican and Republican-leaning votes. She's not right-wing, so she should appeal to moderates and independents. So Matheson faces his toughest challenge ever, although early polls may show him ahead based on name familiarity.

Matheson has his strengths. Independents and moderate Republicans have voted for him for many years. He's a hard worker, will have plenty of money and will run an excellent campaign with a strong grassroots organization.

Love is an exciting candidate, but she's young and inexperienced. She's never done anything at this level. Her campaign will badly need adult supervision, someone with lots of solid Utah experience. She will get help from the national party and its political consultants — which could backfire. The national hotshot consultants usually want to instantly go negative. But a scorched-earth campaign, especially mounted by outside groups, won't work against Matheson. He is too well-liked and well-known in Utah to be vulnerable to nasty campaigning. People believe he's a good guy. Certainly, Matheson can be criticized on a variety of fronts. But a fine line exists that shouldn't be crossed, and the national hired guns usually don't get the nuances. It's going to take a smart, well-run campaign to beat Matheson.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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