Two respected publications say Utah Republicans will have their hands full trying to hold the seat of retiring Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.
As a further blow to Republicans, one also predicts Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, should have "a fairly easy ride to a second term" - even though many have called his district the most Republican in the nation.The assessments were made by Congressional Quarterly, a magazine that covers Washington in depth, and by Roll Call, a twice-weekly newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.
CQ rates the Utah Senate seat as "vulnerable." It said only one Republican seat in the nation is on more shaky ground, that of appointed Sen. John Seymour, R-Calif., who replaced Pete Wilson when he was elected governor. It is considered "highly vulnerable."
Meanwhile, Roll Call sees the Utah Senate race as a "tossup."
Both publications consider former Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon the front-runner for the Utah Republican nomination. CQ said he "has a professional campaign operation in place and is expected to invest heavily in media advertising."
But it noted, "Cannon's campaign hit a bump with his admission that he once smoked marijuana while a student at Brigham Young University. In a GOP primary in this conservative state, that kind of news could give an opening to other Republicans in the field."
Other Republicans seeking the nomination include Robert Bennett, former chairman of the calendar-selling Franklin Institute; Public Service Commission Chairman Ted Stewart; and former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brent Ward.
On the Democratic side, both publications consider Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, the front-runner for his party's nomination, noting he has more name recognition than any other candidate from any party.
"Owens' challenge is to overcome an image that he is a more liberal Democrat than predominantly Republican and heavily Mormon Utah will support," the magazine said, noting he has been under attack for his proposing vast amounts of wilderness.
Roll Call said if Owens cannot get 70 percent of delegate votes in the Democratic State Convention and is forced to face a primary against millionaire businessman Doug Anderson, it could mean trouble "if the challenger is willing to spend millions." Democrat Kyle Kopitke has also running.
Roll Call said Owens has vast campaign experience, and "Cannon, meanwhile, is too much an unknown quantity to put this race in the Republican column."
Meanwhile in the 3rd District House race, Roll Call praised the chances of Orton by saying Republicans have been shooting themselves in the foot.
"Republicans tried hard to get a candidate strong enough to make Orton a one-term wonder. Several early candidates dropped out in order to get behind the state's popular lieutenant governor, Val Oveson," but then he dropped out of the race, Roll Call said.
"So Orem/Provo Chamber of Commerce President Steve Densley, 44, got back in," it said. "He's already angered Orton and most of the state's editorial writers by trying to link (Orton) to socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). It didn't wash."
Even though Roll Call said the district is staunchly conservative, "Orton, despite, his party affiliation, has an ideology to match that of his constituents."