Imagine running a political action committee that seeks to put money into any U.S. House race where it will do the most good for its favorite political party.
Such PACs often go to the Republican National Congressional Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for guidance about candidates' real chances and true need for money.What those committees are saying about Utah races may be a little surprising.
For example, rumors are - mainly from Democrats but also a few Republicans - that Republican Genevieve Atwood has not had backing as strong as she would like from the RNCC, which has hurt her fund-raising against Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, in the 2nd District.
Meanwhile about the 3rd District, Democrats are telling PACs they may have a little-known gem of a candidate in Bill Orton, who they say actually has an outside shot of winning because of the bitter Republican primary won by Karl Snow. They had not dared dream that about the nation's most Republican district.
About the 1st District, both Democrats and Republicans say they are amazed by the amount of press that Democrat Kenley Brunsdale has been able to generate in his race against Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah. They draw different conclusions about whether that will help his chances.
Rhetoric aside, both Democratic and Republican committees see the race for Owens' seat in the 2nd District as one of the nation's closest and a place where PAC money can have its biggest impact.
But Doug Sosnick, political director for the DCCC, claims the Republicans made a big mistake in how they promoted that race, which may now haunt Atwood.
"For the past year and a half, they have been putting out the message across the state and nation that they recruited (former Rep.) Dan Marriott and he could win against Owens. But Atwood beat him.
"Now they have to go back and re-educate people about Atwood. That makes the job more difficult, especially at this point. Educating PACs is a slow process," Sosnick said. "Besides, we think Wayne Owens has done a lot for his district and will be tough to beat."
Dave DuBose, spokesman for the GOP committee, said his group always maintained that both Marriott and Atwood were credible candidates. Atwood said one reason for her trip to Washington this week is to solidify support with the RNCC.
"Yes, I think some people at the RNCC were firmly entrenched for Dan. The RNCC knew Dan, and Dan had done a good job working on them. Dan had talked of running a million-dollar campaign, we had not. . . . But I have the impression once they get on board, things will be fine. That is my mission this week," Atwood said.
She comes armed with a poll showing she is just eight points behind Owens. In Washington, the magic numbers for a candidate to be considered viable and worthy of contributions is to be over 30 percent in the polls while holding the opponent under 50 percent. Atwood easily does that.
Meanwhile, regarding the 1st District, Sosnick said Democrats are pleasantly surprised about Orton. "We watched the bloody primary between Snow and (John) Harmer. Most Democrats found it amusing. But when they met Orton, they felt we have the best candidate, period, and the race might be winnable."
He said if Orton makes a move in the polls, money and other assistance could result. However, DuBose says Democrats "are just trying to get some headlines" and said Republicans consider the 3rd District a safe seat.
In the 1st District, both Democrats and Republicans have been surprised at the press coverage Brunsdale has generated.
Republican DuBose said, "The Associated Press seems to be covering that race more than any other in the nation, judging by the number of clips we get here. But that doesn't mean it is helping Brunsdale. He's making a lot of noise, but it hasn't translated into anything in the polls."
Sosnick said Democrats feel Brunsdale "is controlling the debate," and it may help him make a move in the polls. If that happens and he reaches the magic numbers of holding Hansen under 50 percent and he goes over 30 percent, then big help may come for him.