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Salt Lake County, Utah, Goes for Obama

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Many red states in America have a blue dot somewhere -- a county that encompasses the regional ideopolis or cosmopolitan hub and goes for Democrats in national presidential elections. Utah, however, has been steadfastly red for decades.

A state where 72 percent of voters backed President Bush's re-election, Utah did not see a single county go for Sen. John F. Kerry in 2004 or Vice President Al Gore in 2000. So when the state again went for the Republican, Sen. John McCain, in 2008, it seemed likely that Utah's lonely liberals would again see their votes diluted in the surrounding sea of conservative voters. But just as Missouri this year did not play the bellwether role it has since 1956, this year is finding the winds of change blowing across Utah.

On Tuesday, the official results certified in Salt Lake County, Utah, gave President-elect Barack Obama a 296-vote edge in the county, the most populous in the state. The win came after more than 29,000 absentee and provisional ballots were counted; McCain had the lead before the new tabulation. Obama's narrow victory in Salt Lake County represents the first time a Democrat has won the county in decades, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

An official at the Salt Lake County Clerk's office could not recall the last time the county had gone for a Democrat, but the last Democratic presidential candidate to win Utah was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Obama also bested McCain in Summit County (home to ski haven Park City) and Grand County (home to the river-rafting hub Moab), giving him three counties where Kerry and Gore each failed to win any.

The county wins don't give Obama any new electoral votes, but they do signal new Democratic strength in a conservative Western state. And they also mean that now, even Utah has a few blue dots.

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 20, 2008; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  Election Day  
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I lived in Utah for 10 years. That is one state where there is really no difference in church and state. In order to be elected you had to be Mormon when I was there, but that is changing now that so many people are moving into the state. Perhaps the "gentiles" will take over one day - and then we'll see Utah's politics becoming more provocative.

Posted by: valady | November 24, 2008 3:04 AM | Report abuse

I believe this is a reflection on the Savvy the Dimocrat Socialists have developed with their Base, having too much Time on their hands!
People caught up in the Real World of Earning their keep(And supporting problematic Spawn in College, playing Politics) do not have the luxury of Registering where Dim. Socialist Numbers are needed-While Residing in Dimocrat Enclaves where their Dim. Socialist Vote are really not needed!

I fear this Trend.

Posted by: SAINT---The | November 21, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

The change in voting patterns may also be due to Californians moving to Utah.

Posted by: TomJx | November 21, 2008 4:16 AM | Report abuse

I lived in Salt Lake CIty for a couple of years in the mid-90s. It's a different place than the rest of Utah. Great coffee (forbidden for Mormons, OK for gentiles). Several good brewpubs (Squatters, Red Rock, Desert's Edge @ The Pub).

Rockie Anderson won as mayor and was not your prototypical candidate. So, I'm not surprised. Unfortunately, the Mormon legislature conducts electoral vivisection to make sure that Blue votes are parceled out amongst the Red congressional districts.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 20, 2008 10:53 PM | Report abuse

A vote for Obama could be a rejection of a candidate who did not offer solutions to problems and not support of liberalism. I preferred Obama to the remainder of his primary opponents because I saw him as the most conservative. It is time that the platitudes like smaller government and lower taxes not be considered as a substitute for a plan to revive the economy and to make health care available to all.

The most important choice that we had to make was a very organized person with a vision for the future against a disorganized man who turned himself over to a campaign team who tried to present him as something he wasn't and in the process destroyed what he was.

The country is now centrist but I think it is premature to conclude that the country has moved to the left. All it has done is to chose to return to sanity.

Posted by: Gator-ron | November 20, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

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