Utah’s highly watched Mia Love-Ben McAdams race is now a ‘toss-up’

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

A well-regarded political handicapper now says the hard-fought Utah congressional race between Rep. Mia Love and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is a “toss-up.”

The Cook Political Report previously listed the 4th District race as “Lean Republican,” making Wednesday’s shift a bad sign for the incumbent lawmaker working to fight off a serious challenge during a midterm election year that favors the Democrats.

“If you forced me, I’d probably still pick Love to win at this point,” said David Wasserman, Cook’s House editor, “but it is extremely close, in our view."

In his analysis, Wasserman pointed to recent polling, including a late August poll by Dan Jones & Associates for UtahPolicy.com that had Love at 49 percent and McAdams at 46 percent.

"This is an odd district at the moment," Wasserman said. "It is hard to tell if Mitt Romney helps Love or if Donald Trump hurts Love more."

Romney, the former 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is running for the U.S. Senate in Utah.

President Donald Trump is less popular in Utah’s 4th District than he is in the state’s other three House districts. A June poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute found Love up by 6 percentage points in a district where 53 percent of respondents disapproved of the president.

The 4th District includes big parts of the west side of Salt Lake and Utah counties as well as portions of central Utah. It is a district that tilts conservative but is seen as the most competitive in the state.

Asked if Trump’s low approval rating is making this race difficult, Love’s campaign strategist, Dave Hansen, said: “Mia Love would be doing better if Ronald Reagan would be president; I think that would be the case.”

Hansen said the Love camp doesn’t see this race as a toss-up, and he doubts the rating change will give McAdams any momentum.

“More of a drag on his numbers is the thought that [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] would be speaker of the House,” Hansen said. “We have found that would be more of a drag on him than Trump is on us.”

McAdams' campaign strategist, Andrew Roberts, argues that Love has consistently voted in line with the Trump agenda and that Utah voters want "a breath of fresh air."

The Democratic mayor posted on Twitter about the ratings change, saying in part that The Cook Political Report “must be seeing the same incredible enthusiasm and support from our campaign that I’m seeing.”

Wasserman and The Cook Political Report changed the rating on eight House races Wednesday, all shifting a step to the Democrats.

While noting that there’s “still time for political conditions to change,” Wasserman wrote in his analysis that “it’s becoming harder and harder to see Republicans' path to holding the majority.”

For Democrats to take over the House, the party would need to pick up 23 House seats.