Three of the four incumbents in Utah races for the U.S. Senate and Congress are cruising with more than 30-point leads over their challengers, according to a new Deseret News/KSL poll.
And the incumbent in the one relatively close race - Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah - has nearly tripled his lead during the past month over Democrat Gunn McKay, enlarging it from four percentage points to 11.The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates on May 31 and June 1, interviewed 605 people statewide and is considered accurate to within 4 percent. Fewer people were interviewed for each congressional race, so the accuracy in those races is slightly less.
The poll shows that two-term Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has the largest or the large leads over opponents by incumbents.
He leads Democrat businessman Brian Moss by a 63-23 margin and leads Democrat Joe Cwik by 68-13. Hatch's lead over Moss actually dropped 3 points since April, and his lead over Cwik dropped 4 points.
Hatch's press secretary, Paul Smith, said the senator is happy with the 40-point-plus lead but said polls this early may not mean much more than a measurement of name recognition.
Hatch must also be happy with poll results showing that 71 percent of Utahns strongly or somewhat approve of his job performance. Only 23 percent disapprove, and 6 percent were unsure.
Despite big leads by Hatch, the poll had some good news for Moss in his race against Cwik for the Democratic nomination. It shows Moss leading 42-5, with 5 percent favoring someone else and 49 percent undecided. Moss' campaign manager, Gene Davis, said, "At least we're happy with those numbers. . . . We obviously need to work on name recognition though."
In the First District congressional race, Hansen continued to build his lead against McKay. He now leads 51-40, with 9 percent undecided. When the political season began, the two were virtually in a dead heat - but Hansen has gained a few points in every poll since.
Hansen credits that to hard work in Congress and "negative campaigning by McKay, which doesn't work well in Utah. I don't mention him in my campaign - but every time he gives a speech, he blasts me."
McKay's press secretary, Russell Clark, disputed those claims. He said Hansen has not been working hard in Congress - missing 34 of 53 votes in the last month to campaign at home. He also said McKay only attacks Hansen's stands, but claims Hansen often launches personal attacks against McKay.
Clark expects the polls to again narrow once McKay begins advertising to make his issues known. Clark said that should also prevent a early knockout punch by Hansen in the war for campaign contributions. Contributors often will donate money to a candidate only if polls show he realistically may win.
Hansen said his growing lead in the polls has made it much easier for him to raise funds in recent weeks.
In the Second District congressional race, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, leads Republican Richard Snelgrove by a 60-27 margin. Libertarian Michael Lee had 5 percent support, and 7 percent of those polled were undecided.
Owens' 33 point lead is three points less than it was in April. But his press secretary, Art Kingdom, said with the margin of error in the poll, virtually no change has occurred.
"We feel that shows people approve of the job Wayne has been doing, even though the district is supposedly 2-1 Republican," he said.
The poll shows Owens leading 54-34 among Republicans, 86-6 among Democrats and 69-15 among independents. Snelgrove's campaign has been seeking to convince residents that Owens is much more liberal than the average resident.
In the Third District congressional race, Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, leads Utah County Democratic Chairman Robert W. Stringham by a 54-17 margin, and leads former U.S. Senate candidate Craig Oliver by 59-15.
Polls show that 4 percent of those polled favor American Party candidate E. Dean Christensen, and more than 20 percent of those polled are undecided about the race.
In the race for the Democratic nomination, Stringham leads Oliver by a 23-16 margin - but a whopping 55 percent remain undecided and 5 percent favor someone else.