Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wait... what? Obama won part of Utah?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There may be no state in the Union that is more Republican than Utah, but, with the counting of provisional and absentee ballots now completed, it looks like Obama actually won Salt Lake County, the state's most populous.

He won by only 296 votes (or "less than one-tenth of 1 percent"), but still:

It is a huge step for us," said [state Democratic Party] Chairman Wayne Holland.

He has studied the major strides Democrats have made in surrounding western states like Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, all of which went for Obama. Holland said the shift from Republican elected officials to Democrats only occurred after Democrats started winning in the major metro areas of Denver, Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

He said seeing Obama win Salt Lake County was "our grand hope."

And now that it has come true, he believes it will result in greater Democratic gains throughout the state.

"You will see this start the spread into the rural areas."

Well, we'll see. If winning a single country was the party's "grand hope" -- and it won it only narrowly -- I'm not sure there's all that much hope for the party, at least at the presidential level, in the near-term.

Utah, after all, is not Nevada or Colorado or New Mexico.

It is heavily Mormon, heavily white, and heavily socially conservative, whereas Nevada is libertarian, Colorado is quite diverse and dynamic, and New Mexico is heavily Hispanic. And while Salt Lake City is a major urban area, it isn't nearly as liberal, broadly speaking, as Denver or Las Vegas.

But a win's a win, even if it doesn't affect the electoral college vote, and I suppose Obama's breakthrough in Salt Lake County, if it's part of a trend and not just a one-off, could bode well for Utah Democrats in state-wide and local races long before the state ever turns blue at the presidential level.

If it ever does.

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  • Actually, it's three counties. Summit (liberal and less than 50% LDS), Grand (think "mine safety") and Salt Lake.

    Salt Lake City itself is very progressive and there was never any question about Obama taking those precincts. Obama taking Salt Lake County is important because it shows the Democrats making inroads into the southern suburbs. That's a good thing.

    As with many states, you need to separate presidential from local politics. Utah's electoral votes have gone GOP for a long time, but the GOP lock on the state as a whole has been an issue only the last maybe 25 years. Even now, one of Utah's congressmen is a Democrat - a democrat the GOP tried to gerrymander out of office, but who was reelected with over 60% of the vote in a GOP leaning district.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:42 PM  

  • Excellent comment, Greg. Thank you.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 4:38 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:08 PM  

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