Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Utah 2nd – Rep. Jim Matheson is seeking a 6th term
Primary: June 22, 2010
Location: parts of Salt Lake City, Eastern and Southern Utah
Days until Election Day: 65
Since 2002, Rep. Jim Matheson has won Utah's 2nd District with expanding majorities - an impressive feat for a Democrat in a conservative state. Though his party remains unpopular at home, Matheson will bank on his personal popularity and votes against major Democratic initiatives to retain his seat. Republicans hoping to add this seat to their column face a tough fight.
A member of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate House Democrats, Matheson highlights his independence and bipartisanship as part of his appeal to fellow Utahans. He was one of 34 Democrats to vote against health care reform and has worked closely with the Utah congressional delegation, of which he is the only Democrat, on issues like nuclear waste and the environment.
His opponent, Republican Morgan Philpot, a former state representative, is focusing on the national debt and unemployment in his efforts to take the Utah seat. This has not gone unnoticed by national Republicans and Tea Party activists. Philpot was invited to speak at Friday night's "Take America Back 2010 Convention," sponsored by FreedomWorks. The conservative organization has played a large role in the Tea Party movement.
His appearance at the FreedomWorks convention may increase Philpot's exposure and possibly help him improve his fundraising, which so far has lagged far behind Matheson's. As of June 30, he had $58,000 in the bank compared to $1 million for Matheson.
The Utah 2nd covers parts of Salt Lake City, as well as the eastern and southern areas of the state. Home to numerous national parks like Bryce Canyon and Zion, the conservative district's strongest Democratic leanings come from Salt Lake County, where almost 60 percent of its residents live, according to Congressional Quarterly. Though it voted overwhelming for Matheson with 63 percent of the vote in 2008, Philpot still stands a chance. When it comes to national elections, the district squarely votes Republican, as seen in Sen. John McCain's win with 58 percent over President Obama's 40 percent. With voter frustration high, this could be the opening that Philpot needs.
Matheson hasn't faced a tough election since 2002, but with Democrats facing a turbulent national environment, he cannot take the seat for granted. He heads into the fall in relatively good shape compared to other Democratic incumbents in Republican districts, but if the race turns out to be a referendum on President Obama and Congress, Matheson could be in for a difficult Election Night.