Dem poll: Matheson could beat Hatch in Utah Senate race

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) would trail longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) by only six points in a theoretical Senate match-up, according to a poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and obtained by The Hill.

The conservative Blue Dog Democrat would be backed by 42 percent of voters, with Hatch at 48 percent. While any partisan poll's results should be taken with a grain or two of salt and this poll was conducted more than a month ago, from Sept. 7-15, it was conducted by the respected Democratic pollster Anzalone Liszt Research.

Should Matheson decide to challenge Hatch, the poll suggests, he could have a pretty good shot at beating the senator in the very conservative state. He already represents the most Republican district of any House Democrat, and his family name is well-known in the state, since his father was governor.

He has not decided what office he will run for and is waiting on the Republican-controlled Utah State Legislature to finish its redistricting maps before he decides to run for reelection, challenge Hatch or run for governor.

Republicans have decided to make Matheson's already conservative district even more Republican, although there is a dispute about how much to alter the lines because Gov. Gary Herbert (R) doesn't want Matheson to run against him.

This is not the first poll to show Matheson could beat Hatch: An independent poll conducted in June had the two tied.

Hatch is a target of some very conservative politicians in his home state, as well as some national conservative groups. He dodged a bullet when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) decided not to run against him in the GOP primary but could still face a tough road to renomination if a serious candidate emerges to challenge him. Utah's party nomination process is done by convention, making it easier for hard-line activists to knock off incumbents.

Should Hatch not be the nominee, it would likely make it even easier for Matheson to win election.

Democrats in D.C. hope the six-term House member will take the plunge and give them a shot at winning the Utah seat — Matheson is the only Democrat who could make the race competitive, and if he runs would increase their chances of keeping control of the Senate next year. Their circulation of this poll could be one way to try to woo Matheson into the race.

Matheson's office did not respond to a request for comment.