Sometimes I pick up this newspaper and give it the Philip Graham test.

While publisher of the Washington Post, Graham once told a group of foreign correspondents that journalism is a "first draft of history."

So I regularly pick up the paper and wonder what stories are big enough that they'll rate a mention, maybe even an entire chapter, in my grandchildren's textbooks 20 or 30 years from now.

One national political phenomenon fits the bill and is relevant in every election race unfolding this summer and fall in Utah Valley. The breathtaking wave of small donations to political candidates, much of it over the Internet, has created a new political power that swept Barack Obama past Hillary Clinton and may put him in the White House.

Obama's ability to raise cash is astounding, not just because he'll shatter records but because it involves so many Americans, many giving so little.

Right here in the UV, Jason Chaffetz told me he was taking advantage of the same phenomenon even before his stunning upset of 3rd District Congressman Chris Cannon in this week's Republican primary.

Flush with cash from corporate PACs, Cannon raised more than $750,000, crushing Chaffetz in the fundraising race. But Chaffetz made the case that the $170,000 or so that he raised was more effective because it was part of a broader grass-roots effort that attracted more and truer believers to his campaign.

Chaffetz told me that by his count, he had 600 individual donors to 30 for Cannon.

On Election Day, Cannon told me that characterization was unfair because much of the PAC money he got came from Utahns who contributed to those PACs.

But Chaffetz crushed Cannon in stunning fashion at the ballot box. A Chaffetz victory certainly had seemed possible. A blowout was so unlikely that BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy didn't publish its poll that indicated Chaffetz would win by 12 percentage points.

That couldn't be, right? Well, Chaffetz won by 20 percentage points.

Ironically, Cannon launched an effort in January 2006 to draw in more contributors, courting Internet donations as small as $1, to imitate Howard Dean's pioneering efforts to raise money online during the 2004 presidential race.

Cannon's effort failed.

Could this political trend, this momentum that builds when so many individuals contribute to a campaign, reach down into Utah Valley's races for the state Legislature and deliver a shocker there?

Surely it is at least a red flag at a time when every Utah politician is conducting an autopsy of Cannon's loss to see what it means for incumbents.

So far, the 13 Republican incumbent legislators from Utah Valley up for re-election this fall aren't learning the lessons taught by Dean, Obama or Chaffetz. The 13 incumbents have a grand total of 29 individual contributors who have given $50 or more to their campaigns, or about two donors per candidate.

The 13 Democrats challenging them have a total of 412 such contributors.

Yes, the Republicans have money from PACs and from the Utah County GOP. The question is whether 412 to 29 is an indicator of broad frustration with incumbents and support for Democrats that could lead to an upset and usher one or more Demos into office from conservative Utah Valley for the first time since 1994.

Such a win might just qualify around here as historic.


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. E-mail twalch@desnews.com.