Chaffetz Sixth Member to Reverse Course and Back Trump

His seat's safe, but Utah has become an unlikely White House battleground

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he won't defend or endorse Republican presidential candidate, but he will vote for him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he won't defend or endorse Republican presidential candidate, but he will vote for him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 27, 2016 at 11:33am

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of unexpected-presidential-battleground Utah has become the sixth Republican member of Congress to reverse his repudiation of Donald Trump.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Wednesday he would vote for the GOP presidential nominee because he’s slightly preferable to the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

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“I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him,” Chaffetz tweeted.

That declaration came 19 days after he joined the chorus of lawmakers withdrawing their support of Trump in the days after the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump boasted of his ability to grope and kiss women without their consent. The candidate dismissed his remarks as “locker room talk.”

At the time, Chaffetz referenced his 15-year-old daughter when explaining his disavowal of Trump. He told CNN, “Do you think I can look her in the eye and tell her that I endorsed Donald Trump for president when he acts like this? I’m not going to put my good name and reputation and my family behind Donald Trump when he acts like this, I just can’t do it.”

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Like most of the 53 members who have renounced Trump, at least for a time, the congressman’s re-election to a fifth term representing Provo and southeastern Utah is not in doubt. But the state, which has voted Republican for president in a dozen straight elections, has become competitive this year because of Trump’s unpopularity among Mormons, who represent the state’s main religion, and the independent candidacy of former GOP leadership aide Evan McMullin, a Utah native, Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University.

The other GOP members who have now promised to vote for Trump, even after publicly withdrawing their support, are Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama and Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey.