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Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Primary Aftermath

A quick look at selected election results from yesterday, and some analysis -- including my theory about how Tim Bridgewater narrowly lost a race he probably could have won.

US Senate: Lee Over Bridgewater

By now, anyone who was paying attention knows that Mike Lee defeated Tim Bridgewater yesterday for Utah's Republican nomination for US Senate. Utah being a heavily conservative and/or Republican state, unless something quite bizarre happens, he should win the seat in November. All through last evening's returns, Lee had a small lead, and he ending up winning with a hair over 51 percent of the vote. Turnout wasn't high; the margin was about 4000 of roughly 180,000 votes cast.

Think about it. If about 1,000 people who voted for Lee had voted for Bridgewater instead, the outcome would have been reversed. (Actually, we'd be mired in a recount -- but let's assume we have final totals.) This sort of margin gets the losing candidate and his campaign staff gnashing their teeth and thinking, if only this, or if only that . . .

Any number of things could have changed the results, but here's my theory. Remember those angry, obviously factually-challenged robocalls from Cherilyn Eagar and Bob Lonsberry, during the last several days of the campaign? I think they were enought to throw the election to Mike Lee. They ended with the required notice that they were approved by Tim Bridgewater or paid for by his campaign or whatever. I didn't actually raise the subject with anyone, but I had several voters I know tell me that they had been undecided between Lee and Bridgewater until the day they received those calls -- and, believe me, they noticed that the calls officially came from the Bridgewater campaign. On the same day they received a call or two endorsing Mike Lee, but those calls were civil and focused on the views and qualifications of Mike Lee.

Let's be a little cautious with our numbers and say that, if one out of 40 voters reacted this way, it turned the election.

I doubt we'll ever know whether my theory is true, and my anecdotes are not a scientific sampling . . . But the late polls showed a large percentage of undecided voters, and more than half of ones I talked to told me they made up their minds to vote for Mike Lee because of the robocalls I have described.

If this means nothing else, it means this: The manner in which you pursue your cause or agenda can actively undermine it.

One of the nasty callers wants to friend me on Facebook, as of yesterday or the day before. The definition of friend on Facebook is loose, anyway; some of my current "friends" are just people on whom I want to keep an eye -- not enemies, really, but certainly not real friends. I haven't responded to this friend request one way or the other, just yet, but maybe I should accept it. This individual helped my Senate candidate get elected; that's more than a lot of my Facebook friends have done for me.

US House of Representatives, Utah's 2nd District: Matheson over Wright

There's no surprise in Congressman Jim Matheson's rout of Claudia Wright. But I wonder if those pictures Matheson used in the primary, showing him with President Obama, will come back to bite him against Republican Morgan Philpot.

Utah County Commission: Gary Anderson over Joel Wright

I was in the minority, though a rather large one: I voted for Joel Wright. I won't rehash my reasons, which are somewhat complicated and a tad subjective, but I will note one of them. Wright is the candidate who tried to make the campaign a little deeper than usual, by talking about things other than tax increases, sometimes. In some campaign soon, I hope we can talk about things like a countywide library system and expanding the County Commission to make it more representative of the people in the county. It doesn't feel very representative or very responsive, and the campaigns are painfully shallow -- but maybe a little less so this year, thanks to Wright.

I knew better than to ask Wright, when he called me this morning -- the morning after the election -- if he wants to run again next time. But I wouldn't mind seeing it happen.

Alpine School Board: Various

The Alpine School Board race in which I could vote had me favoring the incumbent, Tim Osborn. He survived the primary -- winning all there was to win last night -- but he did so with only half as many votes as the other survivor, challenger John Burton, the establishment candidate. Scott O'Neill, another outsider, was eliminated. It's not clear to me that Osborn will pick up most of O'Neill's votes, but, even if he does, he has some work to do. With the general election four and a half months away, and in view of the fact that Osborn didn't really rev up his campaign machine for the primary, there's a good chance that he can still win the general election, I think.

Other incumbents finished first -- three of them -- but two of them had less than 40 percent of the vote, which means that more than 60 percent voted against them. They're in some trouble -- which I don't mind at all -- but, again, there's a lot of time and a lot of room for catching up.

Utah County Recorder: Smith over Campbell

Jeff Smith beat Rod Campbell. I voted for the latter, but if there are 100 voters in Utah County who felt passionate about their preference in this race, I'd be surprised. A lot of Republican voters in Utah County didn't even cast votes in this race, though they voted in others.

I know there were other races and other candidates, but, believe it or not, I prefer to keep mum about things to which I haven't paid any attention.

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