Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The RINO Has Gone From Endangered To Extinct: Jason Chaffetz Upsets Chris Cannon Big Time In Utah Third Congressional District Primary

After twelve years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Utah's Republican Third District Congressman Chris Cannon will be returning to Mapleton - permanently. Defying last minute poll projections, and fueled by a one-sided showing in Salt Lake County, Republican challenger Jason Chaffetz vaulted to a major upset win over Cannon in the June 24th Utah primary election. With 99.8 percent of the votes counter, Chaffetz got 59.96 percent, while Cannon struggled home with 40.04 percent. Click HERE to view raw data. Other Utah primary election results can be accessible HERE.

Stories now being reported by KSL Channel 5 (with video), KUTV Channel 2, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, and the Provo Daily Herald.

Also picked up by CQPolitics and Michelle Malkin.

Utah's most prominent pollster, Dan Jones, missed this one. Back on May 19th, they showed Cannon up by two percentage points over Chaffetz, with a large swath of undecided voters. In a newer poll ending June 19th, Dan Jones showed Cannon up by four percentage points, with a smaller percentage of undecideds. This indicated that the undecideds were gravitating slightly to Cannon's camp. As a result, I was beginning to believe that Cannon would pull another rabbit out of his hat.

Chaffetz came within an eyelash of winning the nomination outright at the State Republican Convention on May 10th, missing by only 10 delegates. Only the controversial intervention of another candidate, David Leavitt, who was eliminated in the second round of balloting, saved Cannon from getting knocked out altogether.

Unlike Utah House District Seven, where Glenn Donnelson's preoccupation with immigration caused him to be portrayed by his opponent, Ryan Wilcox, as a "one-trick pony", and contributed to Donnelson's defeat, immigration was the decisive issue in this race, since both Chaffetz and Cannon were otherwise similar. And it revolved around one word - amnesty. Chris Cannon wanted a conditional amnesty, while Jason Chaffetz said NO AMNESTY. Since most Third District residents are suffering from immigrant fatigue in general and Mexican fatigue in particular, they also wanted NO AMNESTY. And at the ballot box on June 24th, they got what they wanted, although turnout statewide for this primary election may end up being 10 percent or less. A separate editorial column published June 25th in the Provo Daily Herald also identifies immigration as the primary trigger for Chaffetz' victory.

Chaffetz also hammered away at Cannon over Congress' failure to control government spending, fix energy policies, and eliminate the federal government's role in public education.

Cannon cited his conservative credentials, his work to develop oil shale in order to bring down gas prices, and reminded people of his experience and seniority. Cannon also out-fundraised Chaffetz by nearly 7-to-1, had the endorsements of President Bush and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on polling.

Two other opponents await Chaffetz in the general election race. Constitution Party opponent Jim Noorlander is running on a similar platform as Chaffetz and may finish anecdotally as a result. However, the Democrat, Bennion Spencer, should not be looked upon as cannon fodder. Spencer's not your typical gay-loving tree-hugging Salt Lake Democrat. Instead, he's a more responsible mainstream Utah Democrat after the mold of Second District Congressman Jim Matheson, who is a "blue-dog Democrat". Nevertheless, the Third District is probably too red to be captured by any Democrat, and so Chaffetz is likely to prevail in November.

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