2020 Presidential Elections State-by-State Guide: Utah is Republican but not a big fan of Donald Trump

The Mormon majority of the state don't like Trump much but recent surveys show he's back in popularity


                            2020 Presidential Elections State-by-State Guide: Utah is Republican but not a big fan of Donald Trump
Utah State Flag (US Public Domain)

State

UTAH

Primary dates

March 3, 2020 (Tuesday)

Type: Semi-closed

Democratic delegates: 35 (pledged delegates 29, super 6)

Republican delegates: 40

Governor 


Gary Herbert (Republican)

Senators 

Mike Lee (R) & Mitt Romney (R) 

Representatives: 4 

Three Republicans: Bob Bishop (1st District), Chris Stewart (2nd District) and John Curtis (3rd District).

Democrat: Ben McAdams (4th District)

Electoral college votes: 6 

Donald Trump won all of them in 2016

How Utah has voted in presidential elections in the past 

Having attained statehood in 1896, Utah has not been won by a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. FDR had won it four times between 1932 and 1944 and his successor Harry S Truman won in 1948. But thereafter, it has been all red. In 2012, losing candidate Mitt Romney had beaten Barack Obama by 73-25 percent votes and it was the largest margin of victory in any of the American states since Ronald Reagan beat Walter Mondale by 75-25 percent in 1984. In 2016, Trump won 45.5 percent of the votes while his opponent Hillary Clinton received 27.5 percent. Trump received fewer votes among the Mormon population, with Mormon conservative Evan McMullin getting over 21 percent of the votes, the best performance by a third party since Ross Perot in 1992. The state has its sixth electoral vote since 1992 after it saw fast population growth in the first decade of the 21st century. 

A Red state that isn't a fan of Trump

Utah is an interesting case politically. Even though Democratic president Grover Cleveland had made the Beehive State the 45th of the Union in 1896, it has not voted for a Dem candidate since LBJ took it in 1964. The majority Mormon population makes Utah very conservative on social issues but the state has not traditionally been a great supporter of President Trump. The Mormon faith’s own troubled past makes it uncomfortable to fit into Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, like against the Muslims.

Mitt Romney is one of the most popular politicians from the state (Getty Images)

Trump has in the past tried to appease the Mormon sentiments but his not-so-friendly terms with Mitt Romney, the state’s top leader who is a Mormon, have not helped his cause. The Mormons or members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint also do not like Trump for cultural reasons (their faith does not approve of foul language that the president often uses) and demographical reasons (Mormons are more educated than the pro-Trump whites, most of whom do not have high-school degrees).

Until the beginning of the 1970s, Utah’s partisan politics was, according to experts, very divided and balanced before the GOP took control of the popular positions. Today, a majority of Utah’s voters are not in support of abortion and same-sex marriage and that makes the state almost impossible for a Democrat to win. But the mix of hard and moderate stands (like on immigration) makes Utah a unique state, even if it is politically homogeneous. Salt Lake City has become more diverse in recent times with liberal pockets found here and there but yet, the GOP reigns supreme.

Utah and 2020 presidential election:

In January last year, when the Trump administration was still in the middle of the long shutdown, a poll showed that the majority of voters opposed the re-election of Trump and backed Romney, who humbled Barack Obama in the state in the 2012 elections and is its newest senator, over his critical stand on the president. Trump had a humbling defeat in the Republican primary in the Beehive State against Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in 2016 (14% against 69% and 17% respectively), and although he is favorite to clinch the primary on Super Tuesday this time, it is still to be seen whether he can keep the deep red state in his kitty in the general election this year.

In the 2016 presidential election, Evan McMullin, an Independent who was backed by many Republicans who did not like Trump, got 21 percent in Utah and that might remain a headache for the GOP which would like to see the state remain its strong fort and not a wild card. Trump’s net approval in Utah is only eight points now, which is much less than those in states like Wyoming (27), Idaho and Alabama (23 each). To the GOP's satisfaction, however, one survey said in early February that Trump has become more popular than Romney.

In the Democratic field, Bernie Sanders is having a good lead over his opponents. A survey by Suffolk University-Salt Lake Tribune from January found Sanders having a 13-point lead in the state (Elizabeth Warren second). According to another forecast made by FiveThirtyEight, Sanders has a massive lead with 87 percent while the next best are Michael Bloomberg and Warren (four percent each). In 2016, Sanders had a huge win (79% to 20%) over Hillary Clinton to bag 27 delegates in the Democratic caucuses that were later changed to primary.

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