Hatch, Herbert appear to be locks for re-election
The odds were against Scott Howell and Peter Cooke when they decided to take on Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Gov. Gary Herbert.
And after months of campaigning, both Democrats appear headed for defeat on Tuesday, each trailing by 40 percentage points in a new poll for The Salt Lake Tribune.
Hatch seems to be on his way to a seventh term in the Senate, unprecedented in Utah history. He leads Howell, a former state senator and IBM executive, 64 percent to 23 percent.
And Herbert has an even wider margin, holding a 69 percent to 22 percent advantage over Cooke, a retired two-star general.
"We knew we had an uphill battle," Cooke said. "I think our campaign has stayed on the high road, talked about issues that need to be discussed. I know I'm a better person because of this campaign, and I hope maybe we added a little to the mix."
Cooke said that the coattails from presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the power of incumbency are "extremely difficult to overcome." But he believes a two-party system is still needed in the state and hopes his campaign contributed to that effort.
Herbert said that, with a second decisive victory likely on Tuesday, he feels like he has a mandate from Utahns to continue the direction he has charted for the last three years.
"You work hard, you do what you think is best in governing, you hope the people appreciate the results, which, in our case, since we've been on the job, have been virtually all positive," Herbert said. "So you're certainly encouraged to see numbers like that, and I think it's a tribute to our administration's hard work and the fact we've seen good results."
Herbert said he plans to work hard until Election Day and then, hopefully, start putting in place his plans for the next four years. He said that while Utah's economy has bounced back well, unemployment is still too high and the state has goals he wants to meet in education, namely getting two-thirds of Utahns to receive post-high school certificates by 2020.
Hatch, meantime, spent a record amount of money on his re-election campaign, most of it to get through the Republican primary, before his rematch with Howell, who lost in 2000.
Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen said he believes that the senator's early campaign efforts laid a solid foundation for his re-election bid, and Hatch was fortunate to have the resources $12 million in all to run the race he wanted to run.
"The fact that he has been out there giving his message and working hard has paid off," Hansen said.
Howell ran hard against Hatch's seniority even suggesting that Hatch, 78, could die in office. He promised a bipartisan approach if elected but struggled to gain traction against the senator.
"We knew going into this race that it would be tough, but we remain hopeful that Utahns will take one last look at the candidates in this race and see Scott as the refreshing change that we so desperately need in the United States Senate," said Howell's campaign manager, Emily Bingham Hollingshead.
She said she remains proud of the campaign Howell has run, and everyone involved in the campaign plans to press ahead until Election Day.