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And with one more year in the House, the tough votes he will have to take could make for colorful fodder in a future race.
Jeff Hartley, a Republican consultant and former executive director of the Utah Republican Party, says even though the number of Democrats and independent voters is slowly growing in Utah, the trend isn’t enough to help Matheson.
"If a Democrat could win, it would be Jim Matheson but I don’t think the voter population is there for him," Hartley said.
Presidential politics » After eight years of President Barack Obama, Republicans in Utah could be running to the polls in 2016 to help elect a Republican to the Oval Office.
While presidential politics don’t often impact state races, a higher turnout for Republicans could hurt Matheson’s chances. Salt Lake County has turned more purple in recent elections but statewide, party identification numbers remain about the same with growth in Davis and Utah counties and the St. George area. Winning the state’s most populous county — as his brother did in 2004 — won’t be enough to put Matheson over the top.
What’s next? » Matheson still has a full year in office, a good amount of time to cement a legacy that he can run on in 2016. Republicans will still control the House, but Matheson can push bills that would curry favor with Utah voters even if they don’t pass.
He’s already known as an anti-nuclear waste advocate and has strongly defended the downwinders benefits. His office is also well-known for its constituent work it provides Utah residents. Keeping that rolling would be beneficial down the road.
The next 12 months would also be an opportunity to put even more distance between himself and the national Democratic Party’s agenda and tout Matheson’s signature "Put Utah First" slogan.
But the congressman insists speculation triggered by last week’s announcement is premature. He says he’ll leave Congress, find a job and look at his options. "I’m excited," he said Friday, "about looking at what the next chapter of my life is going to be."
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