Evan McMullin is on the verge of defeating Donald Trump in Utah, foreclosing his path to White House. The late entry independent conservative candidate doesn’t have a shot at winning the presidency. But McMullin is giving voice to Republicans who oppose the GOP nominee, but can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton.
From Washington Examiner
Even before McMullin entered the race, Trump was on pace to vastly underperform past Republicans here. Still, Utah is among the most reliably red states in the country and the New Yorker had been expected to win.
Now, some of the same GOP insiders in Utah that confidently predicted Trump would win on Nov. 8 — despite his weakness — are projecting a McMullin victory. The Trump campaign recognizes the danger.
On Wednesday, just 13 days before Election Day and trailing in several key, traditional battleground states, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is being dispatched to Salt Lake City for a campaign rally to salvage the ticket.
“I believe at this point in the race, McMullin has the inside track and will likely win the state,” said Boyd Matheson, president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative advocacy organization in Salt Lake City.
Matheson, who previously worked for Sen. Mike Lee, who has declined to endorse Trump, told the Washington Examiner in August that he expected the Republican nominee to win Utah.
“Had Pence come to Utah shortly after the convention he might have been able to close the deal,” Matheson said.
McMullin, 40, is Mormon and Utah native. He’s a former CIA operative and worked as a policy aide to House Republicans. His running mate, Mindy Finn, 35, is Jewish and a Republican political operative specializing in digital strategy and communications; she lives in Washington, D.C. It’s not the profile of a ticket that will pull off a miracle in the national presidential race.
But it’s playing well in Utah, where there’s a broad sense of dissatisfaction with Trump that predates the revelations that he once bragged about using his celebrity to make sexual advances on women but has only deepened since then.
Trump’s positions on legal and illegal immigration, and his sharp rhetoric about banning Muslims from entering the U.S. on the basis of their religion, as a means to prevent domestic terrorism, doesn’t sit well with Utahans’ sense of conservative civility.
It’s a sensitive issue for Mormons because of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ history of religious persecution.
Explaining Trump’s tumble in Utah, above all, is his rejection by independent voters, according to Bryan Schott, the managing editor of UtahPolicy.com, which commissioned the most recent poll of the presidential race.The survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, a Utah pollster.
“If you want to understand why Utah has suddenly become the flavor of the month among the political cognoscenti, look no further than independent voters,” Schott wrote in his analysis. “Among that group, Trump comes in third place.”
Utah delivered an average of 66 percent of the vote to the Republican nominee in the last five presidential elections.
Yet in polls taken over the summer, Trump only led Clinton by single digits, pulling anywhere from the just under or just over 40 percent of the vote in public opinion polls.
Since McMullin entered the race and began campaigning — primarily out west — the race for Utah’s six Electoral College votes has turned into a three-way tie.
Trump led the most recent RealClearPolitics.com average of polls by 5.5 percentage points, with 30.7 percent to 25.2 percent each for Clinton and McMullin. In the last three surveys, McMullin led Trump by 4 points in one and trailed him by only 1 point in the other two.
Clinton was in third; Libertarian Gary Johnson, who showed signs of competitiveness before McMullin joined the race, has fallen off.
Trump already trailing Clinton in most of the usual battleground states, and on the ropes in Arizona, can’t afford to blow a red state like Utah. It’s among the reasons why Clinton is pressing her advantage here.
Even if the Democratc nominee finishes third, forcing Trump to play defense in a state that he shouldn’t have to pay attention to makes his climb that much steeper in the states that are going to determine the election.
“By being on the ground, we’re doing our best to make something happen,” a Clinton campaign official told the Examiner. That includes bringing in Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile and the DNC campaign bus to bracket Pence’s Wednesday afternoon stop in Salt Lake City.
“It’s a tough, three-way race right now,” the Clinton campaign official added. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
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