By Alexandra Jaffe - 05/21/13 12:04 AM EDT
Utah Republican Mia Love, one of the GOP’s most highly-touted House recruits in 2012, is making a second run for Congress in 2014 — and says she’s learned from mistakes that helped sink her campaign last November.
“I think most important is finding the best political strategists in the state of Utah and having them work on our campaign, and really getting a road map from now until the election,” Love told The Hill on Monday.
She would have been the GOP’s first black female member of Congress but lost to Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) by fewer than 800 votes.
Love, who announced last weekend she’s seeking a rematch, was criticized for what some Republicans viewed as a poorly run campaign plagued with staff shake-ups and inefficient polling.
This time, she has hired Dave Hansen, a strategist from Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) 2012 campaign, to join her team.
She’s planning on finding a new pollster as well, after numerous internal polls from her campaign last cycle wrongly showed her ahead of Matheson.
“There are so many different things you can point out that we could’ve tweaked,” Love, 37, told The Hill. “Most of all, we have to get Republicans to turn out.”
Love said she’s hoping to have a clear run at the GOP nomination in the district.
She has already reached out to donors that supported her 2012 bid and said she has support — though not formal endorsements — from Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R) and Sen. Mike Lee (R).
“We’re trying to keep the field clear,” she said.
Responding to the news Love is running again, Matheson said he was confident in his chances going into his eighth House race.
“I’ve successfully run seven times in the reddest state in the country,” he told The Hill. “People know me, they know who I am, and I have a reputation with my constituents that trumps partisanship.”
Matheson’s backers believe he overcame a “perfect storm” of factors going against him in 2012.
Mitt Romney, a Mormon and organizer of the Salt Lake City Olympics, was at the top of the GOP ticket, driving Republican turnout higher in a state with a large Mormon population.
Matheson, 53, was also running in a redrawn district that was more favorable to a Republican. And Love’s candidacy brought an influx of outside spending and donations to boost her campaign.
Without Romney at the top of the ticket, Matheson contends the electoral landscape could be more favorable for him.
“I think this year is going to be different in terms of, it’s going to be more beneficial for me. We were running against some pretty powerful coattails in Mitt Romney” in 2012, he said.
The son of former Utah Gov. Scott M. Matheson, the Democratic congressman raised $288,000 during the first quarter of the year.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Matheson one of its 26 most vulnerable incumbents in 2014.
The National Republican Congressional Committee lists him as one of seven “Red Zone” incumbents, signifying Democrats serving in districts won by a Republican president the past three election cycles.
Matheson has recently tacked to the right to boost his centrist credibility. Last week, he was one of two Democrats to vote in favor of repealing ObamaCare.
Matheson said he considers Love’s positions to be out of touch with Utahns.
“I think my opponent represents positions that are quite partisan and way out there,” he said, citing her support for privatizing Social Security and cutting funding for special education.
National Republicans contend Love is a stronger candidate this cycle and will have a head start on campaigning.
“This time, she needs a stronger message about what she’s going to do and why she’s running,” said one national GOP strategist involved in House races. “Last cycle, her team got a late start and they didn’t really get where they needed to be in terms of message and ground game.”
Love said she was aware of the criticism that she lacked a strong message in 2012 and felt that she’d correct that mistake as a second-time candidate.
“We’re really going to focus on what we bring to the table,” she said. “I’ll bring my message of fiscal discipline, limited government [and] fiscal responsibility to people frustrated with Washington and fed up with the dysfunction.”