(Tribune File Photos) Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, right, plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Mia Love to represent Utah in Congress.


It doesn’t take Nostradamus to know this was coming: Rep. Mia Love’s campaign team is already dusting off a tried-and-true campaign strategy, trying at every opportunity to hang the Clinton anchor around Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams’ neck.

This time, it centers on a new super PAC formed by former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers — called Party Majority — aimed at supporting Democratic candidates in the 2018 election. Love’s campaign manager is challenging McAdams to reject any donations from the group.

“They’re out forming and they’re probably going to take a look at people who are part of that group and Ben, being a former employee of both Clintons, they’ll make donations to him,” said Dave Hansen, who has overseen Love’s last two campaigns. “He’ll get money from them or they’ll offer it to him.”

Now, Hansen has been around politics long enough to know that super political action committees, like the one the former Clinton campaign team has set up, can’t donate directly to candidates, nor can they coordinate spending on campaigns.

But that’s beside the point. What the Love campaign really wants is to put McAdams’ name in the proximity of the Clintons and hope the connection hardens like concrete in voters’ minds. Ben “Clinton” McAdams.

“You’ll probably hear it over and over this campaign,” Hansen acknowledges.

It’s likely not a coincidence we see this line of argument now, after a strong Democratic showing in recent elections and during the same week the Cook Political Report sees a “wave” election building, prompting them to move the 4th District forecast from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican.”

We’ve seen the tactic used over and over in red state Utah because, frankly, it has been effective. Remember when it was Rep. Jim Matheson who was either Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama? Then they hit Democratic challenger Doug Owens hit for giving money to Hillary Clinton. Now it’s McAdams’ turn to be saddled with the Clintons’ unpopularity in the state.

It’s not without some validity.

During college, McAdams did an internship in the Clinton White House. He has done advance work, handling the logistics for the Clintons when they travel. Bill Clinton helped raise money for McAdams in 2012. And McAdams endorsed HIllary Clinton early in her 2016 race and was a prominent supporter in Utah.

McAdams’ team could reasonably try to turn the criticism around and tie Love to President Donald Trump. After all, midterm elections are generally seen as a referendum on the sitting president and we saw John Curtis’ views on Trump feature prominently in the recent 3rd District special election.

And, let’s face it, unless Chelsea runs years from now, we’ll never have another Clinton on the ballot in Utah or in office nationally.

Hansen says Trump comparisons are “totally different.” Love didn’t vote for Trump, he says, she supported Marco Rubio, then Ted Cruz in the primary, but she will support the president when he’s right on the issues. So far, based on a vote analysis by fivethirtyeight.com, Love thinks Trump has been right 96.2 percent of the time, voting with the president more than either of her colleagues, Reps. Chris Stewart or Rob Bishop. Curtis, Utah’s new congressman, arrived last week and is not included in the analysis.

McAdams campaign manager Andrew Roberts views the Clinton chatter as an attempt to distract from Love’s record.

“Given Mia Love’s efforts this year to raise taxes for hard-working Utahns, expand the deficit by $1.5 trillion, and increase health care premiums for millions of Americans, it’s no wonder her campaign is so eager to replay the 2016 election,” Roberts said. “The mayor will do in Congress what he has in Salt Lake County — work across party lines to change Washington and get things done for the people of Utah. This is the choice voters will face in November.”

We’ve got a race here between Love, who has served in Congress for three years now, and her Democratic contenders — McAdams, who has also been in the mayor’s office since the 2012 election, and candidates Darlene McDonald and Tom Taylor. They should each run on their records.

And more than that, voters should be looking to the future.

Boyd Matheson, the president of the conservative Sutherland Institute and a potential U.S. Senate candidate, posted a YouTube video this week where he talks about what voters should look for in the upcoming Senate race. The convenience of using Sutherland as a platform for his Senate aspirations, aside, he makes a valid point:

“Elections,” he says, “are never supposed to be about what was or even about what is. Every election at every level of government should be about the future: What’s next?”

That is what the 2018 election should be about, and hopefully voters are smart enough that they will see through the attempts to make the race about Trump or Clinton and when they see the tactic trotted out think: “Is that really all you’ve got?”

Correction: Nov. 20 9:14 a.m. >> Rep. Mia Love is in her third year in Congress. The story also has been changed to note a third Democrat, Tom Taylor, is also running.