Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion Politics

Clinton ties Trump in GOP stronghold of Utah (!)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a visit to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on May 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CLINTON-BDS, originally transmitted on May 9, 2016.

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%

Undecided                 16%

Trump and Clinton are in a dead heat. This has led to unthinkable headlines like these.

Trump Mormon Washington Post

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%

Other                          29%

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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About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

25 Comments

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  • I don’t know how indicative this is for the rest of the nation, but it’s a hopeful sign — maybe a few more polls like this in other states and Trump’s chronic foot-in-mouth disease, and the convention will dump him and go with someone else.

  • When are we going to get the statistical analysis that will give us an idea how many “Evangelicals” are actually Christian?

    Six gets you five either way, natch, and my guess at the morning line is 30-percent-ish.

    -dlj.

  • We’ll lose anyway, even if Trump wins. With someone else at the top of the ticket, at least we’ll have a better chance of holding the House and maybe even the Senate.

  • They self-label as Christian. Most couldn’t name 7 of the Ten Commandments or 3 of the 4 Gospels.

  • Such things can be tricky. In 1952, convention shenanigans was business as usual. These days, the elite trying to steal the nomination from Trump after he won it fair and square means the masses won’t follow. Hopefully that will lead to the Republicans going the way of the passenger pigeon. This once great party has not nominated a candidate of decent character since 1976 and I say that with reservations considering Gerald Ford’s move to impeach Justice William O. Douglas because he wrote an article for “Playboy.” Make it 1956, then.

  • No way the Repugs hold the Senate. Too many seats at play, too many weak incumbents in blue states. On the way out: Johnson of Wisconsin, Ayotte of New Hampshire, Toomey of Pennsylvania, Portman of Ohio, McCain of Arizona, and Burr of North Carolina, at a minimum. If Roy Blunt’s out in Missouri somebody put the GOP in receivership before it gets looted by scavengers. Sell its voting lists on eBay. Considering how much Clinton will do in her first 100 days a lot of the old faithful will croak.

  • Don’t forget that even with Trump’s blowouts in the last few primaries, Trump still only carried ~45% of the primary votes, a lower percentage than McCain and Romney. So if the convention hands the nomination to someone else, a majority of Republicans are more likely to be relieved than angry. Add in those that voted for Trump but really mean it when they say “anyone but Clinton,” and that nominee should have at least as much support as Trump enjoys now.

  • Right now, looking at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, it looks like we might end up with a 50/50 split (though Rubio might improve the odds in Florida). But that assumes we don’t get a wave against one of the parties, and with Trump at the head of the ticket a wave against the Republicans is VERY likely.

  • So who are they going to get instead? Trump may have only carried 45% of the primary voters but his opponents barely carried half of that number in any given state. Lets face it. the GOP has been imploding for some time. Trump is a symptom, not the problem itself.

  • It could be anyone the delegates eventually come to agree upon, including people that didn’t even run. Personally, I think we ought to go back to requiring 2/3 of the convention delegates to vote for a nominee.

  • Seriously, who do you think out of the GOP toolbox right now is even remotely presidential material?

  • I would have been willing to vote for any of the other Republican candidates, though Carson was pushing the envelope because of competence, being a surgeon is nothing like being president. That said, Carson definitely has the character Trump lacks and would have been a much better choice than Clinton.

  • Carson was the “Rain Man” of candidates. sure he is a savant in an operating room, but in public, in the political arena, he was completely ill equipped. He really had no idea what he was doing. I couldn’t consider Carson for a local suburban school board, let alone for president.

  • I don’t disagree, except that he is at least a highly intelligent as well as honorable man — which puts him head and shoulders above Clinton, and he would most likely have been able to grow in office.

  • Honorable to the extent that there was nothing particularly negative in his background and history. I think you are suffering from a case of exaggerated wishful thinking. He was popular as the GOP’s talisman to ward off some very accurate accusations of courting racists and engaging in racist rhetoric. But frankly nothing the guy said in public sounded even remotely like someone who deserved election to public office. The Creationist nonsense alone is enough to give one pause. Frankly it became regular news fodder to print all the ridiculous stuff he would say at any given time.
    http://www.google dot com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=ben+carson+saying+crazy+stuff&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

  • Honorable to the extent that there was nothing particularly negative in his background and history. I think you are suffering from a case of exaggerated wishful thinking. He was popular as the GOP’s talisman to ward off some very accurate accusations of courting racists and engaging in racist rhetoric. But frankly nothing the guy said in public sounded even remotely like someone who deserved election to public office. The Creationist nonsense alone is enough to give one pause. Frankly it became regular news fodder to print all the ridiculous stuff he would say at any given time.

  • Carson was far from my first choice, but if by some miracle he had ended up the Republican nominee I would have voted for him.

  • Even when I was a Republican, I would have steered clear of him. For any elected position. He was just a walking punchline to any given late night show monologue.

  • I don’t think he is intelligent, except within his field. He’s the one that said people are turned gay in prison, that the pyramids were grain storage, and a host of other ignorance-informed remarks.

    It isn’t rocket surgery, after all.

  • No, I’m not confusing the two at all, not in this case. Intelligence implies at least an inclination to learn things like facts, use things like logic, understand experience, paying attention to the world around oneself.

  • It’s hardly surprising in a Mormon-heavy state, considering that the things that Trump cares about are not the issues Mormon conservatives care about. It’s expected the candidate would not do as well in Utah.

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