Deseret News/KSL poll: Mia Love has slim edge on Jim Matheson in volatile 4th District
The Matheson-Love matchup is one of the hottest and most closely watched congressional races in the country. It's also the most expensive U.S. House contest in Utah history, with total spending reaching $10 million.
At least two dozen PACs, superPACs and other groups have poured $5.6 million into the race for and against both Matheson and Love, according to opensecrets.org, which tracks Federal Election Commission financial reports. The campaigns and their supporters inundated the airwaves with one of the nastiest TV ad wars ever in Utah politics.
Those backing Love shelled out $2.9 million, while those supporting Matheson put down $2.7 million. All but about $1 million of the total between the two came in the form of negative or attack ads.
The candidates themselves also built substantial war chests. Matheson raised $2.1 million, while Love raised $2 million, much of it coming after her well-received speech at the Republican National Convention in late August.
Love stitched her campaign to the long coattails of Romney, Utah's favorite adopted son. The GOP presidential nominee cut an TV ad for her last week in which he directly appeals to viewers to vote for her.
Matheson has tried to keep his distance from President Obama while touting himself as an independent voice. In one TV ad, a local mayor says he's voting for Romney and Matheson.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Love would be the first black Republican woman elected to Congress should she win Tuesday.
Love, 36, entered the race as a relatively unknown mayor of Saratoga Springs. Despite Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff referring to her as a "novelty," she upset two former state lawmakers to overwhelmingly win the GOP nomination at the state convention.
As the new darling of the Utah Republican Party, Love quickly made a name for herself on the national political stage, especially with conservative bloggers and news outlets. A parade of GOP stars, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Speaker John Boehner and eventual vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, made their way to Utah to raise money for her.
"The voters have to decide: Do they want a new face — dynamic, attractive, energetic — or do they want someone who has been doing the the job for 12 years?" said University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it would be "historic" for Love be the first black GOP woman serve in the U.S. House.
"We welcome Mia's voice," the Virginia Republican said. "She is uniquely placed to be a leader in Congress."
America is changing and the Republican Party knows that if it doesn't diversify it will be a losing party, Chambless said.
But a Love win, he said, begs a couple of questions.
"We'll ask ourselves, does this mean the Republican Party is broadening its base? Is it the party of the big tent that Ronald Reagan talked about or is it anecdotal and insignificant and really parochial in its significance?" Chambless said.
In compliance with Deseret News policy, comments will not be posted on political stories and editorials from now until the polls close Tuesday, Nov. 6.
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