Public Policy Polling (July 8-10; 732 registered Utah voters) just confirmed the results of another Beehive State poll conducted last month. Both sets of data show six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) facing serious re-election competition for the first time since originally winning his seat back in 1976. In fact, the new PPP data actually shows Hatch trailing Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) by a single point in a hypothetical general election showdown, 44-45 percent.
It was perceived that the senator’s toughest battle would come in the Republican nominating convention should Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) launch an intra-party challenge against him. Earlier polling predicted that Hatch would cruise to the nomination and re-election if he at least secured second ballot position at the convention. Now, the new polls suggest that every phase of his re-election battle is tight.
Neither Matheson nor Chaffetz has said definitively that they will run for the Senate. Matheson, the lone Democratic federal office holder in this most Republican of states, says he will be on the Utah ballot in 2012, but he is not sure for what office. He could certainly seek re-election, though the GOP map drawers will undoubtedly make his already strongly conservative district even more Republican. He confirms considering running for Senate, while also not ruling out challenging GOP Gov. Gary Herbert. Chaffetz, too, is undecided about whether to run. Unlike Matheson, he likely will receive a safe seat in redistricting, meaning the two-term congressman’s political risk might be greater than his Democratic colleague. A Matheson-Chaffetz race was also tested and the Democrat led that pairing by an even greater 47-42 percent margin. The 2012 Utah Senate race must now be considered officially competitive.
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