Tuesday, Utah voters will participate in the Republican primary but if things go according to plan, Donald Trump will have a terrible showing!
After Utah-native Mitt Romney announced that he will be supporting Senator Ted Cruz tomorrow, the polls continue to show Mr. Trump in 3rd place, even behind Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Though Trump once polled competitively with Cruz and Marco Rubio in the state, Rubio’s departure from the race and Trump’s increasingly polarizing demeanor appear to have soured Utahans on his candidacy.
He raised eyebrows when he swooped into the state on Friday to make uncomfortable overtures to Mormon voters and hurl fresh insults at Romney, including by questioning his faith. But a new Y2 Analytics poll show the bottom has dropped out of Trump’s support in the state. Ted Cruz is straddling 50 percent support, and John Kasich has come on strong, capturing nearly 30 percent of the vote to Trump’s 11 percent.
If Cruz falls just short of 50 percent — thanks in part to Kasich’s last-minute surge — all three candidates will win a share of the state’s 40 delegates to the Republican national convention. For Kasich’s allies, it’s elementary: the goal is to accumulate as many delegates as possible before the convention — and that means competing in states he’s unlikely to win, including Utah. But in a race that’s become almost exclusively about the also-ran attempts to keep Trump from securing the nomination, ceding any delegates to him could prove fatal.
Leavitt’s successor as Utah governor, Jon Huntsman Jr., has offered warm words for Trump despite Trump’s public hostility toward him four years earlier. In a Friday tweet, even Huntsman seemed caught off-guard by the political split among Utah’s leaders.
“Something stinks in Salt Lake City,” Huntsman tweeted. “Best friends Mitt Romney and Mike Leavitt supporting different candidates in Utah. Keep an eye on this.”
In an email to POLITICO, Huntsman also denied any plans to back Kasich, a fellow governor. But he noted sharply that it wasn’t for lack of trying by Kasich’s campaign. “Notwithstanding lobbying from their camp, no plans to endorse Kasich,” he wrote.
But it’s Herbert, the state’s current governor, whose wrestling with the presidential nomination fight is most indicative of Utah Republicans’ own struggles. Herbert, who’s facing reelection this year, came an eyelash from endorsing Kasich in a phone conversation.
“Governor Kasich is a friend oh mine, and so my heart is with a friend,” he said. “I think John has a wonderful background and wealth of experience.”
But although his heart is with Kasich, his head may be with Cruz, who he planned to meet on Saturday. “Senator Cruz lines up a little bit more philosophically,” he said of Utah’s conservative reputation. “I certainly have significant positive feelings about Sen. Cruz and Gov. Kasich. I like them better than Donald Trump.
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