That was fast.
CRYSTAL BALL RATINGS CHANGE: UT-4 moves from Leans Democratic to LIKELY REPUBLICAN after Rep. Jim Matheson (D) retires
— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) December 17, 2013
Here’s Matheson’s announcement. He’s only 53 years old. Either there’s some as-yet-unknown bad news that’s forced him out or, as a Democrat from Utah, he’s tired of fighting for his political life every two years. In 2002 he won his race by fewer than 1,700 votes. Last year, against tea-party favorite Mia Love and with Mitt Romney at the top of the ballot, he won by fewer than 800 — despite having trailed in one poll by 12 points heading into election day. Love already declared in May that she’d challenge him again next year; maybe he looked at the political landscape, especially with what’s in store for ObamaCare, and figured he might as well retire before the voters eventually retire him.
Big news for two reasons. One: Republican Frank Wolf, who represents increasingly blue northern Virginia, announced earlier today that he was retiring after 34 years. That’s a golden opportunity for Democrats to turn the House slightly bluer — or was, before Matheson’s retirement canceled it out. Two: If Love wins the seat, she’d be the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican. The GOP naturally wants to make that happen to help rebrand itself as a more racially diverse party, which is one reason why she got a speaking slot at the convention last year. Grassroots righties I know like her a lot too, although she got some static last month when she seemed to inch away from the “tea party” label and criticized Mike Lee’s “defund” tactics (as did a lot of other Utahns). When the Blaze noticed, she issued a statement trying to smooth things over. Hmmm.
The only mystery to this election, then, is whether Love will win in a walkover or whether other Republicans will be lured into the primary by the prospect of an easy general election. One of Romney’s sons is forever being whispered about as a potential candidate for something or other. Maybe there’ll also be a candidate to her right championing Lee’s “defund” effort and dismissing her as just another RINO in the making. And hey — there’s always the Huntsmans! The national party will do whatever it can to clear the field for her. Stay tuned.