That’s the almost certain upshot of this news in Utah. Rep. Jim Matheson, who represents the reddest district in America currently held by a Democrat, is hanging it up. No more will Republicans look down the roll call, see “Matheson” among the one to three Democratic votes they picked up on some Obamacare repeal bill, and talk cheerfully about how said bill got “bipartisan support.” (One of the first comments on Matheson’s Facebook-announcement: “Can you start voting in FAVOR of health care now, then?”)
This means a favorable electoral outlook for Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah (pop. 21,137) and the most beloved-by-Republicans 2012 candidate who couldn’t pull off a win. “She is also one of the smartest congressional candidates,” wrote one conservative website after publishing an interview with her, “and can quote Frederick Bastiat with the ease of an economics professor.” She was also an African-American woman whose very existence (they hoped) could cancel out the “media narratives” about the racist, NuvaRing-hating GOP. She even opposed free school lunches!
Nonpartisan media were impressed, too. Sort of. Love had an irresistable story, and gave a decent speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. But she could seem off. When BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins interviewed her, Love asked him to put a fundraising button on the website, because “the time has come for us to no longer just stand on the sidelines and watch and see what happens.” Reporters who looked close found a disorganized campaign, and a candidate who stumbled when pushed off message. When she managed to lose an election 1) in Utah, 2) with Mitt Romney leading the ticket, it confirmed the worst about her talents and the worst/best about Matheson’s.
But he’s not running anymore. Unless the Republicans who were unimpressed by Love last year manage to outorganize her at the state convention, the House will welcome its first-ever black female Republican.