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SALT LAKE CITY — In her first interview since last week's election, Republican Mia Love said Monday she was "absolutely" surprised to lose her bid for Utah's new 4th Congressional District seat last week.
Love took to the radio airwaves Monday, telling KSL's Doug Wright she's already looking to what's next.
"You just move on," Love said, "and you continue to be a voice."
While 70,000 ballots still need to be counted, it's unlikely they will change the outcome. So Love and her campaign staff are trying to figure out what happened.
Rep. Jim Matheson beat enormous odds on Election Day. But Love has a theory as to why she lost: Libertarian candidate Jim Vein pulled away votes, she said, getting twice as many as the difference in the race.
"There was a third party candidate out there that we really didn't know about, (didn't) know too much about," Love said.
But there are also other theories, including the affect all the negative ads had on the race. Many of them were paid for with big money from Washington, D.C.
"Both outside groups were horrendously negative on each of these candidates. I think it hurt her more than it hurt him," said Kirk Jowers, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
But those who know Utah politics also blame Love's campaign. Early on, she achieved superstar status by speaking at Republican National Convention and appearing on cable news channels. Some suggest it was a "distraction factor."
"She needed more time with Rich Piatt and less with Wolf Blitzer," Jowers said. "That was really a big problem. You need to win the local race before you become national."
That sentiment echoes a Utah Policy poll of Republican political insiders: 32 percent said Love ran a bad campaign, and an equal number said Matheson ran a good one.
Political consultant Dave Owen worked on Love's campaign early on. He said he saw a change after her state primary convention victory.
"She had a team of young people who worked their guts out, who worked 70-, 80-hours (a week) to get her through convention. After convention, they were unceremoniously dumped and replaced with people from Washington, D.C.," Owen said.
Whatever led to the election results, Love isn't looking back.
"You have two choices: you can make excuses or you can make progress," she said. "The naysayers are making excuses. I'm interested in making progress."