U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson holds a commanding lead over GOP challenger John Swallow in the 2nd Congressional District, while his older brother, Scott, is improving in the governor's race, closing in on Republican Jon Huntsman Jr., a new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll shows.
Republican incumbents in other major Utah races hold healthy leads over their Democratic challengers, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found.
And, as expected, President Bush holds a big lead over his Democratic challenger, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in Utah, as well.
Jim Matheson holds a 31-point lead over Swallow, 61-30 percent, found Jones in a survey conducted last week. Among those who said they were very interested in the race, the lead holds up as well, Jones found.
The 2nd Congressional District's boundaries were redrawn in 2001. And in 2002 Matheson barely beat Swallow in a district that some say is 60 percent Republican. So far, this rematch has not proved as close.
However, Jones, who has polled in Utah for 30 years, said he expects the race to close up as the Nov. 2 general election nears.
But Jim Matheson told the newspaper last week that he's pleased with his poll numbers (he had not seen the new poll at that time), and that his lead may be one reason some independent, outside groups had not been running anti-Matheson TV and radio ads against him this year, as they did in his 2000 and 2002 elections.
In the governor's race, Scott Matheson Jr. still trails Huntsman, the new poll shows. But that gap has narrowed to 10 percentage points 49-39 percent.
Jones surveyed 915 adults statewide for the governor, U.S. Senate and attorney general races; the margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percent. He surveyed around 300 people in each of the three U.S. House districts; margin of error plus or minus 5.5 percent.
A July poll for the newspaper and TV station had Huntsman ahead of Scott Matheson, 51-38 percent.
The newspaper asked Jones to cross-tab the results in the two Matheson contests, to give some indication of which 2nd District voters support Democrat Jim Matheson (who leads in his race), but then switch over to support Republican Huntsman (who leads in his race).
Jones found that 24 percent of the people who said they support Jim Matheson's re-election in the 2nd District switch political parties and support Huntsman in the governor's race.
Will Scott Matheson work with brother Jim to try to grab some of Jim's 2nd District supporters?
"No," said Mike Zuhl, Scott Matheson's campaign manager. "There has been no coordination at all between the two campaigns and there won't be."
You will see no ads showing the two Mathesons together, Zuhl added.
While Utah law is liberal on control of state races candidates can raise as much money as they can from anyone, spend it anyway they wish federal law tightly controls what a candidate for the U.S. Congress can and can't do. "There would be legal concerns for Jim" if the campaigns shared supporter lists and other items, Zuhl said.
But Scott Matheson said in other ways his campaign, on its own, will try to find any and all supporters. Will some be Jim Matheson/Huntsman people turned into Matheson/Matheson supporters? Yes, said Scott Matheson.
"This (poll result) is a real opportunity for me," said Scott Matheson. "There is great potential out there, clearly. We have to get our message to them."
On the other side of the coin, Swallow will be working to see who the Jim Matheson/Huntsman supporters are and switching them to Swallow/Huntsman voters, with both GOP campaigns trying to tap into Utah's strong Bush support as well.
While the 2nd District and governor's races show results that may surprise some, the other races are so far following the traditional Utah political line: Republican incumbents holding firm leads.
Utah gave Bush his largest majority in 2000. Jones found that if the election were today, Bush would get 65 percent support to Kerry's 25 percent.
U.S. GOP Sen. Bob Bennett, seeking his third, six-year term, leads Democratic challenger Paul Van Dam, 60-23 percent.
In the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, leads Democrat Steve Thompson, 53-23 percent, Jones found.
Third District incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, leads Democrat Beau Babka, 51-27 percent.
And GOP Attorney General Mark Shurtleff leads Democratic challenger Greg Skordas, 57-20 percent.
Jones polled Monday through Thursday of last week. On Wednesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, a Republican charged with two felony counts for misuse of public monies, announced that she had hired Skordas as her defense attorney.
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