Some Republicans speak of Donald Trump shaking up the Midwest and putting coal states into play, but he might have the exact opposite effect in at least one deep red Western state. Utah has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for 52 years, but this year it might break its Republican streak — thanks to Donald Trump.
Recent polls show this deep red state only leaning red, if not evenly split between Trump and Hillary Clinton. This gives Democrats hope that they can move Utah into their column in November.
A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll in June showed Clinton and Trump tied at 35 percent each, with Libertarian Gary Johnson taking 13 percent and 16 percent of voters undecided.
RealClearPolitics does not have a polling average for the state, as there are too few polls to work with. The latest poll, from Gravis Marketing in late May, finds Trump up 7 percent (36 percent to 29 percent).
Even such a lead is remarkable in a state which Mitt Romney took with nearly 73 percent of the vote in 2012 against Barack Obama. Obama took 25 percent, the lowest percent of any Democrat in the state since 1992.
Romney, a leader in the Mormon Church and highly popular in LDS-dominated Utah, has attacked Trump and may be partly responsible for The Donald’s 65 percent unfavorability found in the Salt Lake Tribune poll.
Nevertheless, Ronald Reagan did even better than Romney among Utah voters in 1980, taking 78 percent of the vote against Carter’s 22 percent of the vote, and in 1984, when he took 75 percent of the vote against Walter Mondale.
Were Hillary Clinton to take the state this November, that would not guarantee a sea change to the Democratic Party, however. Cruz won the Utah caucus in March with 69.2 percent of the vote, with John Kasich in a distant second at 16.8 percent, and Donald Trump in last with 14 percent. Were a Republican like Cruz or Romney to take the nomination in 2020, the state would likely return to its Republican tradition.