SALT LAKE CITY – Because of Mitt Romney’s presence on the ballot, many politicians expected a wave of Republican voters in Utah on Tuesday, but it never materialized.
The Lt. Governor’s Office reports strong turnout: 71 percent initially with the likelihood that provisional and absentee ballots would send the number up towards 75 percent. That’s a great turnout, but not record-breaking.
In fact, more voters turned out for the 1992 general election in Utah, and nearly as many voted in the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry.
Instead of a Romney wave, the election showed a continuing trend in Utah: It’s a state colored a deep hue or Republican red almost everywhere except in Salt Lake County.
If you subtract Salt Lake County votes from the presidential race, Mitt Romney garnered 81 percent to Barack Obama’s 16 percent. In Salt Lake County, Barack Obama got 39 percent compared to Mitt Romney’s 58 percent.
“Salt Lake County is the diverse county. It’s more urban. It’s more competitive politically,” said Kelly Patterson, BYU Professor of Political Science.
Patterson and Quin Monson help oversee the Utah Colleges Exit Poll, looking at voting trends and underlying statistics throughout the state. Both see little evidence for a strong Romney impact on major races in the state, and they say Salt Lake County proves the point because of the election of Democrats Jim Matheson to Congress and Ben McAdams to the Salt Lake County Mayor’s seat.
“If Utah has a battleground, that’s it,” said Monson.
The Matheson victory provides a case study: Matheson won 52 percent of the votes from Salt Lake County compared to Mia Love’s 44 percent. That was enough to win despite the fact that all of the other counties provided a landslide for Love to the tune of 69 percent to 29 percent.