President Barack Obama fell just short of 25 percent of the vote in Utah in the 2012 presidential election, but Donald Trump can’t take the Beehive State for granted this November.
A June 2-8 poll by SurveyUSA for The Salt Lake Tribune showed Trump and Clinton tied at 35 percent, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson at 13 percent. It’s wise to avoid drastic conclusions based on a single poll (and an automated one at that), but there are other reasons for Trump to be concerned.
Trump starts from a weak position after receiving just 14 percent of the vote in the state's March 22 Republican presidential caucus (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won with 69 percent) and there appears to be a fundamental disconnect between the Manhattan real estate mogul and Mormon voters, as explained by Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins in a June 13 New York Times piece, “Donald Trump’s Mormon Problem. ”
But even though Mormon voters (who make up approximately 60 percent of the electorate) aren’t embracing Trump, Democrats need Johnson, a former GOP governor of New Mexico, to do well and lower the threshold necessary for a Clinton victory. Adam Wollner wrote about the dynamic in his recent piece, "Trump Faces Headwinds in Utah ," for the National Journal.
Wealthy businessman Ross Perot received 27 percent in 1992 (when he finished ahead of Bill Clinton’s 25 percent) and 10 percent in 1996, but third-party candidates have barely registered since. Johnson received 1.23 percent in 2012 and conservative third-party candidates haven’t combined for more than 2 percent since 2000.
Clinton could also have to contend with lingering resentment over her husband’s 1996 decision to set aside 1.8 million acres of land in southern Utah for a national monument (and making the announcement in Arizona).
Utah’s six electoral votes are not on the verge of falling into Democratic hands. The last Democratic presidential nominee to win the state was President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
But Trump has some deep-seated issues that can’t be ignored. We’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating from Safe Republican to Republican Favored .