A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me whether Hillary Clinton has a shot at winning Utah in November.
“No way,” I said. “Utah hasn’t gone for a Democrat since 1964. If it ever does turn blue, it certainly won’t be for Hillary Clinton.”
I added, though, that Mormons’ distaste for presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump was great enough that Clinton might perform slightly better than other Democratic lambs-to-slaughter have fared in the cherry-red state.
If there’s one lesson I should have learned in the past year since Donald Trump announced his candidacy, it’s that the old rules can’t be assumed to apply anymore.
Over the weekend, the Salt Lake Tribune revealed the results of its most recent poll of Utah voters:
Donald Trump 35%
Hillary Clinton 35%
Gary Johnson 13%
Trump and Clinton are in a dead heat. This has led to unthinkable headlines like these.
Both major candidates had about a two-thirds unfavorability rating, showing just how unappealing Utahns find either choice.
Moreover, for Utah voters who are members of the LDS Church, the anti-Trump bias was even stronger: 79% of Mormons in Utah said they don’t like the brash, politically inexperienced real estate mogul.
Another poll reported today showed Trump with a slight lead, and Libertarian Gary Johnson making further inroads into the double digits:
Donald Trump 29%
Hillary Clinton 26%
Gary Johnson 16%
Obviously, a lot can change between now and November. But these new polls are not good news for Trump, who was clearly hoping that once he’d eliminated his GOP rivals and emerged as the party’s likely nominee, stalwart Republicans would simply fall in line like good little soldiers.
But Utah voters—and Mormon voters in LDS-dominant areas of Wyoming, Idaho, and Arizona—haven’t shown signs of capitulating.
And although early reports indicated that Johnson’s presence in the race seemed to be eroding both major candidates’ support about equally across the nation, the balance seems to have shifted. As Johnson’s campaign picks up steam, Trump has lost several percentage points in national polls.
I still doubt that Utah will go for Hillary Clinton in the general election. But the fact that it’s even on the table as a point of discussion is a remarkable first in this election of remarkable firsts.
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