Newsweek Wonders if Utah Republicans Will 'Play Dirty' by Voting for Leftist in Dem Primary

June 22nd, 2010 11:30 AM

Liberals in the media frequently paint conservatives and Tea Party activists as pushing the GOP too far to the right to be electable in general elections. But the same complaint isn't repeated on an endless loop when it comes to leftist activists challenging more centrist Democratic incumbents in primary contests.

In fact, in some of those occasions, the media find a way to cast aspersions on Republicans.

Take, for instance, a June 22 story on, the headline for which posed the question, "Will Utah Republicans Play Dirty Today?" Writer McKay Coppins explained how one Republican state lawmaker had suggested that the party faithful in the state's 2nd Congressional District should take advantage of the Democrats' open primary system to cast votes for Claudia Wright, a liberal insurgent challenging Rep. Jim Matheson (D), rather than weighing in on the GOP primary contest.

Although he noted that historically such tactical voting hasn't been successful and that state Republican officials have officially "denounced the plan," Coppins explained that the local media have become fixated on the notion and at least one radio host has described the crossover voting idea as "sleazy":

[F]or a while, it looked like a real possibility. An anonymously created Web site called “Conservatives for Claudia” has attracted thousands of page views, and Matheson himself has spent $800,000 this primary season to warn supporters that the party-crashing threat is real. And even though Republican officials (including, eventually, Wimmer) denounced the plan, it has continued to draw attention from the local press, with popular radio talk show host Doug Wright devoting significant air time to the idea. (He called it “sleazy.”)

Republicans still might get their wish, though. A recent poll places Matheson 19 points ahead of Wright, but midterm primaries in Utah have historically garnered low turnouts, and early voting this year has been exceptionally unimpressive. With a passionate left-wing base, Wright could be poised for an upset in the primary – giving Republicans exactly what they hoped for.