Bob Bernick Jr.: Election winners? Bush, Hatch, Leavitt, Cannon and Matheson

Published: Friday, Nov. 3 2000 12:00 a.m. MST

While the 2000 presidential election looks like the closest contest in 40 years, many of the races in Utah won't be nail-biters. Most likely, Nov. 7 will be another Republican day in Utah.

The following are my picks for the major races this year. ATTENTION READERS: These are only one guy's guesses. They don't reflect my personal views or where I will cast my ballots, and they are in no way an endorsement. Neither I nor the Deseret News endorses candidates.

President: Once again Utahns will vote for the GOP presidential candidate. Not since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 have Utahns picked the Democratic nominee. And they won't this time, either. Texas Gov. George W. Bush will get Utah's five Electoral College votes.

But because the national race is so close, Utahns voting for either the Republican or Democratic nominee could see their vote really count this year. It's possible — although not likely — that the ultimate presidential winner could barely take the Electoral College vote but lose the overall popular vote. There's no constitutional crisis here — it's happened several times before. But certainly Americans would wake up to the issue and wonder if it's proper that a man could lose the popular vote but win the presidency anyway.

U.S. Senate: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wins easily over Democratic challenger Scott Howell, the minority leader of the state Senate. Hatch sets a record: 30 years as a popularly elected U.S. senator from Utah.

Sen. Reed Smoot served 30 years in the Senate from Utah. But Smoot was placed in the Senate twice by the Utah Legislature, back before the U.S. Constitution was changed to popularly elect senators.

Don't be surprised if Hatch, 66, actually runs for a sixth six-year term in 2006. A number of sitting senators are older than Hatch would be at the end of that term (78), and he loves the job.

Governor: GOP Mike Leavitt wins a third four-year term. Former Democratic Congressman Bill Orton could have given Leavitt a run for the money this year. But Orton declined to raise the money needed to make it a competitive race.

I wonder if Leavitt will poll more than 60 percent of the vote? I think Leavitt could well fall into the 50s — well short of the record-setting 75 percent majority he got in 1996.

Few remember that Leavitt was actually a minority governor his first term. In 1992, in a three-way race, Leavitt won with 48 percent of the vote. But whether he wins Tuesday by 10 votes or 10,000, he'll be the main state man for the next four years, overseeing hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, the finished reconstruction of I-15 and so on. Leavitt says he wouldn't resign to serve in a George W. Bush administration, should he even be asked. But don't be surprised if in 2004 Leavitt retires from office to accept a position in a Bush second term — if Bush gets that chance.

First and 3rd congressional districts: GOP Reps. Jim Hansen and Chris Cannon win re-election. Democrat Donald Dunn has given Cannon a spunky race, and the final vote could be closer than Cannon would like. But Cannon didn't campaign much. Dunn out-raised him in campaign cash, had kind of goofy TV ads and in general out-campaigned Cannon.

Earlier this year, Hansen told me he'd retire from the House in 2002 if Democrats won back the majority in the 2000 election. He could always change his mind, but losing a committee chairmanship and going back into the minority would be a difficult pill to swallow for the 20-year incumbent.

If Democrats do win back the U.S. House Tuesday, watch for considerable jockeying by 1st District GOP leaders over the next two years in anticipation of an open seat in 2002.

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