Editor column: For The Tribune, elections are more than a horse race
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

We are a month and a few days from Election Day. Last week's polls suggest President Barack Obama is getting the upper hand. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney hopes to reverse that trend when the candidates debate domestic policy in Denver. It promises to be a revealing night as voters get their first look at the candidates together.

In Utah, voters had three opportunities last week to see incumbent Congressman Jim Matheson square off against challenger Mia Love. The themes here are fiscal philosophies and the role of federal government. The contest for the 4th District seat might well be the most competitive and closely watched in the state. With Love's rising profile, it certainly is the one drawing the most attention outside Utah.

The candidates for Salt Lake County mayor — Republican Mark Crockett and Democrat Ben McAdams — also have been busy, facing off over issues of their different management styles in tackling the county's fiscal challenges. That race, too, could be close.

In The Tribune, and on sltrib.com, we are well into our fall tradition of covering the issues and telling the stories of the men and women running for office. Actually, the coverage started last spring leading up to the conventions and primaries.

Most recently, we have served up deep profiles of two candidates who, I would bet, are little known to voters — Democrat Jay Seegmiller and Republican Chris Stewart, vying to go to Washington to represent Utah's 2nd District. We have profiled the 1st District race between incumbent Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer.

We've been there as two popular incumbents, Gov. Gary Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch, have been taken on by challengers Peter Cooke and Scott Howell over leadership and longevity issues.

Meanwhile, The Tribune's editorial page has begun endorsing candidates for major offices. The newsroom, where our political reporting team  — and I — sit, has nothing to do with this endorsement process.

There's a practical and symbolic logic for our editorial board to be on a separate floor from the news staff.

Our job in the newsroom is to impartially cover the campaigns and stay out of opinion. In that regard, we are becoming more and more of a rarity in these days of partisan news coverage in the styles of Fox and MSNBC.

An evenhanded approach, one that includes analysis and fact checking, is vital to our mission to inform the electorate.

The intensity of campaign 2012 will turn up over the next 30 days as polls, both by news organizations and those commissioned by the candidates, give a glimpse of who is pulling ahead, whose message resonates.

Here at The Tribune, we are composing our own poll. Like others, it will cover the horse race aspect of the election. But we plan to go deeper and get at the reasons people vote the way they do. We want to probe the effects of the recession, of world conflict, of Washington gridlock and frustration with government.

What motivates you to support one candidate or another? What issues matter? Or is it a more personal connection?

If you have thoughts about what questions such a poll should include, I'd like to hear from you.

Terry Orme is a Tribune managing editor. Reach him at orme@sltrib.com or 801-257-8727