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.
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