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Do you know who Jim Matheson agrees with on student loans? Mitt Romney.

Any idea who Matheson would try to help if elected? Romney.

And guess who Matheson says he has lots in common with? OK, you get the point.

Matheson, Utah's only Democratic member in the U.S. House, has increasingly tried to get as close to the Republican presidential nominee as possible, and that makes some sense in Romney-loving Utah, even if it annoys some of his more liberal supporters.

Matheson is in a tough fight for a seventh term in Congress against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who is leading in the most recent poll. She doesn't miss an opportunity to tie Matheson to President Barack Obama.

Matheson has told The Salt Lake Tribune that he plans to vote for Obama, but try to get him to say the president's name these days. It is a challenge.

Romney mentions, however, appears to roll right off the tongue.

"I know there are a lot of Romney voters who are going to vote for me," Matheson said in mid-September. "I think there are a lot of similarities between me and Mitt Romney."

And then in his debates with Love, Matheson noted that he would be the first Democrat to reach across the aisle to help Romney if he wins the presidency. And Matheson's staff has even floated that it would be more beneficial to Romney to have Matheson in the House instead of Love, because it would give him a cross-party vote on major initiatives.

Then the Matheson camp took to Twitter on Thursday posting: "Mitt Romney and I agree on the importance of student loans and grants for Utah students. My opponent would cut them."

Not missing an opening, Thomas Wright, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, responded: "@MathesonForUtah, 'I put Utah first' but he supports Obama. Mitt Romney endorses @MiaBLove. How can Jim reconcile that?"

Utah shout-out • Romney often mentions his Salt Lake Olympic credentials in his bid for the White House but last week he also pointed to another successful venture in the Beehive State: Intermountain Healthcare.

Romney, during the first presidential debate, said that part of solving the health care problem in the United States is to bring down the costs associated with such care.

"We ... need to put insurance plans, providers, hospitals, doctors on target such that they have an incentive, as you say, performance pay, for doing an excellent job, for keeping costs down, and that's happening," Romney said, then noted that Intermountain Healthcare does that "superbly well."

"They do," Obama chimed in.

It's not the first time the Utah-based health care company has been cited. Obama mentioned Intermountain Healthcare in a 2009 joint address to Congress.

Missed votes • 1st Congressional District candidate Donna McAleer has twice now attempted to paint her opponent, Rep. Rob Bishop, as a "no show."

"I am appalled by his absenteeism, especially while Representatives [Jim] Matheson and [Jason] Chaffetz uphold their commitment to voting in the House," McAleer, a Democrat, said in releases this week.

Bishop has missed about 7 percent of votes during his congressional career, as opposed to 1 percent for Matheson and 2 percent for Chaffetz, according to

Part of Bishop's missed votes, however, can be attributed to his job on the House Rules Committee, which often meets at random times that conflict with floor action.

Bishop's spokeswoman, Melissa Subbotin, says McAleer is naïve if she thinks that all votes affect Utah and many are procedural measures.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find colleagues of Congressman Bishop in Utah or D.C. who wouldn't agree that he is one of the most dedicated and hard-working members in Congress," Subbotin says. "It's disappointing that anyone would suggest otherwise and signals total desperation on behalf of their campaign."

Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at or or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.

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