Safely red: New Utah poll has Trump up by double digits after all

#NeverTrumpers like me have marveled at the fact that the Republican nominee has yet to crack 40 percent in redder-than-red Utah this year, but what gets overlooked is the fact that Hillary Clinton has cracked 27 percent just once. That was in a poll in early June, when she topped out at 35; since then she’s been under 30 in three straight surveys, including this new one from PPP that has Trump up 39/24 with Gary Johnson at 12 percent and Evan McMullin at 9. Look back at the state’s recent presidential history and you’ll find that the best a Democrat has managed to do there is Obama in 2008, when he pulled 34 percent of the vote. That may be the party’s ceiling in Utah, in which case the only way Hillary has a shot to win is if, implausibly, Johnson and McMullin continue to build on their numbers until they’re pulling fully a third of the electorate between them — and all of their gains would need to come at Trump’s expense, not at each other’s. Anyone think a 34/33/33 Democratic win is realistically in the offing?

Trump’s going to win the state but it’s worth noting how tremendously unpopular he is there. In fact, as gruesome as this PPP poll is for him, it represents his best topline number there so far this year. Previously his best showing had been, um, 37 percent. In Utah.

In a year where much has been made of voters not liking their choices for President, there’s probably nowhere that’s truer than Utah. Donald Trump has a 31/61 favorability rating in the state. That makes him the popular candidate there, by comparison, as Hillary Clinton comes in at 23/72

Much has been made of Trump’s unpopularity with Mormons and certainly that’s a real thing- only 33% of Mormons see him favorably to 56% with an unfavorable opinion. But that still puts him in much better position than Clinton who comes in at 12/84 with Mormons. When it comes to the horse race Clinton is actually tied for third among Mormons in the state- Trump gets 44%, McMullin 13%, and Clinton and Johnson tie for third at 12%…

Even in a state where Trump’s up big, problems loom for him in the polls. 65% of voters in the state think he needs to release his tax returns, to only 22% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. That issue continues to pose doubts about him for voters, and even among his own supporters 44% think he needs to release them with only 36% saying he doesn’t need to. Only 39% of voters think Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons, to 48% who think he can’t be. Trump’s losing his battle with the media- by a double digit margin (45/34) voters say that the New York Times is more respectable than Trump is.

If you’re feelin’ McMullinmania, note that his favorable rating in Utah at the moment is 17/10, with fully 73 percent saying they don’t know enough yet to form an opinion. In two months, with more face time and public awareness of his social conservatism and LDS pedigree, he’ll probably pass Johnson statewide. (He’s only three points behind him right now and, per the excerpt, already leads him among Mormons, with the two of them combining for fully 25 percent of the LDS vote.) I wonder how Tim Kaine as Democratic nominee would be faring against Trump in Utah. He wouldn’t have a 23/72 election-destroying favorable rating to overcome, safe to say.

Incidentally, as PPP is known for tucking trollish questions into its polls, it followed a question about McMullin’s favorable rating with a question about “Sausage McMuffins.” Favorable rating: 33/25. McDonald’s tasty breakfast treat would have a decent shot at cracking double digits against Trump in Utah.

One X factor in all of this: What happens to McMullin’s numbers if Mitt Romney were to endorse him? A Romney endorsement of Clinton is out of the question (I think) but an endorsement of McMullin really might get some reluctant Trump supporters there to reconsider. It’s all a question of how willing Mitt is to try to sabotage the GOP nominee. I remember reading during the primaries that he held off on endorsing Rubio because at no point was he convinced that Rubio had a legitimate chance to win. Romney wasn’t going to spend some of his political capital on a gesture. McMullin might be in the same Catch-22 — he needs Romney’s help to boost his profile and gain traction in the polls, but Romney might not be willing to help until McMullin’s profile is higher and he has some traction in the polls. And even if Romney goes to bat for him, what would be achieved by Trump winning the state 33/27/20/12 over Clinton, McMullin, and Johnson, respectively? If you’re going to intervene to damage your own party’s electoral chances, you’d better be very sure there’s something concrete to be gained by doing so.

One other tidbit from PPP’s crosstabs: 65 percent(!) of Trump’s voters in Utah say that a Clinton victory would necessarily be due to voter fraud. Another poll recently also found Trump fans eager to believe a Hillary win means the election was rigged. The person within Team Trump to watch on that is Kellyanne Conway, who — I think — would not betray her training as a pollster and go along with Trump’s fantasy about a sham result if he loses in November. She’ll say he lost fair and square, at which point Trumpers will tear her apart as some sort of Cruz-backed saboteur who was probably part of the rigging. November will fun. By the way, there’s news on the wire today about Hillary Clinton opening a new state office in … Utah, despite the fact that she can’t break 30 percent there. I don’t think she’s under any illusions about winning. I think that’s more a form of psy ops designed to spook Trump into believing he needs to defend the state. Will he take the bait?