What did we learn from the 2008 elections?

Well, to the surprise of no one, Utah is still a very Republican state.

But if you look at the presidential race, and how President-elect Barack Obama did in Utah compared to other states, Utah is NOT the most red state in the nation.

Obama got around 34 percent of the Utah vote, making Utah the third most Republican state. Take what you will from that.

GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., on the other hand, won the most lopsided landslide in a statewide race in state history, getting 77.73 percent of the vote.

And Republicans swept into office easily in the other three statewide races.

Yet, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson won re-election to his 2nd Congressional District by 63 percent of the vote; his largest victory, as well.

So are Utahns glad-happy for split-ticket voting?

Looks like many are — at least in 2008.

The big news came in Salt Lake County and legislative races. And even in those contests, change in just a few races tipped the balance of power in the county.

The home of the Utah Jazz, University of Utah football and Real Salt Lake is now officially blue. (Sorry, Cougars.)

Democrats won control of the nine-member County Council, 5-4. Democratic Mayor Peter Corroon swept into office with a big win.

Democrats picked up three Utah House seats and one Senate seat in the county — knocking out of office Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, in the process.

In the county, Democratic House members outnumber GOP representatives, 19-11. And there are eight Democratic senators to just four of their GOP colleagues.

While the state Republican Party did OK on Nov. 4, the Salt Lake County Republican Party got whipped. We will see what changes are made, if any, in GOP leadership next summer when state and county party bosses are picked.

Meanwhile, for legislative watchers — and those plying their trades on Capitol Hill — there were some lightning strikes in party leadership races.

Booted out of office by fellow GOP senators were President John Valentine, R-Orem, and Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo. Bramble's demise (following the pizza-girl episode and others) was not a surprise. But Valentine's was.

President-elect Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, joins with Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, and two mild-mannered Republicans in a new leadership team that may be more conservative, but certainly less abrasive.

And Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, made history by being elected the first female minority leader in the Senate's history (even if it was by a coin flip because of a 4-4 tie vote.)

With Curtis gone, the new House speaker is Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara. Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, is majority leader, a post he held in the early 2000s.

What does all this mean? Well, with Valentine and Bramble out, Utah County's influence in the Legislature falls dramatically. Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, is the new assistant whip in the House, but that is the bottom rung of leadership.

Influence for Davis and Weber counties goes up with the addition of Garn; the step up in leadership by Killpack and Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, the new House majority whip; and with Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, being elected Senate majority assistant whip.

Finally, the now-Democratic Salt Lake County government may find itself on the short end of the legislative stick, just as Salt Lake City government did when former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson was the GOP lawmakers' punching bag.

Deseret News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at bbjr@desnews.com