With the presidential race so close, we haven’t had much of an opportunity to pay attention to Congressional races — but the race in Utah’s 4th District deserves a look today. Mia Love looks poised to become the first African-American woman elected to Congress as a Republican, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll in her district, which puts her up by twelve points over six-term incumbent Jim Matheson (via Ladies Logic):
Matheson trails Republican challenger Mia Love 52 percent to 40 percent in a new poll conducted for The Salt Lake Tribune, a large margin in a race where, even a few days ago, both campaigns were predicting a tight finish. …
The Tribune poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, found that the coalition of Democrats, independents, moderate Republicans and women that Matheson has united in past elections is failing to coalesce this time around, with just 9 percent of Republicans crossing over to support him.
That’s the key to this election. The 2nd District has a Cook rating of R+15 [see update], which suggests that Matheson has benefited from an ability to look moderate, combined with the blessing of not having to face a charismatic and inspiring challenger. Even the 12-point lead in this poll slightly underperforms the Republican advantage in this district, but that’s within the MoE and probably has more to do with Matheson’s status as an incumbent. The Salt Lake Tribune also notes, though, that Love has done what other challengers couldn’t — match Matheson’s spending.
Matheson claims that his own poll shows him leading Love by two, and that 19% of Republicans support him. He told the Tribune that he would release the poll “to all of his supporters,” which would be the first time Matheson made any of his internal polls public. That sounds like a desperate attempt to mitigate the perception that his is a lost cause and not worth the effort on Election Day. In a presidential election that kind of surrender seems rather unlikely — people will want to vote for President regardless of how Matheson’s doing — but the concern is still quite telling.
Update: I had forgotten that the 4th is a new district, and that the 2nd was Matheson’s old district. There are no Cook Report stats for UT-04 that I could find.