The point of McMullin’s candidacy, I thought, was to peel off enough Republican votes in Utah to give Clinton a fighting chance at the upset there. Trump is unpopular among Mormons; McMullin is Mormon himself, was born in Provo, attended BYU, and is much more of a traditional conservative than Trump is. If he can pull, say, 20 percent in the state, a freaky-deaky outcome in which Clinton wins with 35 percent of the vote in a four-way race with Trump, McMullin, and Gary Johnson isn’t unthinkable. (A poll taken earlier this summer, months before McMullin got in, had Trump leading Clinton 29/26 in Utah with gobs of voters undecided between the two.) And although Utah provides only six electoral votes, those six could be crucial. Right now Hillary is counting on Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, combined with the Democrats’ other reliable blue states, to push her over the 270 EVs she needs. If New Hampshire comes back on the board, suddenly things look more shaky. In theory, Utah could replace New Hampshire as decisive for her.
In practice, though, McMullin’s barely made a dent — yet. A month ago, Utah Policy had Trump ahead of Clinton 37/25 with Johnson pulling 16 percent and another 21 percent divided between “other” and “don’t know.” Today’s it’s … Trump 39/24, with Johnson at 13 percent and McMullin at nine. Most of McMullin’s votes are coming out of the “other” and “don’t know” categories. If that trend continues, he may yet get to 20 percent but Trump could win the state easily regardless. There may simply be too few Democrats in Utah to put Clinton in a position to win, even with the right-wing vote carved up three ways.
McMullin, who joined the race in August, has not pulled support away from Trump as he was hoping. Instead, it appears that McMullin’s 9% has come primarily from Utah voters who previously had named someone else as their preferred candidate…
As you might expect, Trump has majority support from Republicans at 61%. Both Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson are hoping to siphon GOP support away from Trump, but they are seemingly splitting those Republican voters willing to look at another candidate as 11% of Republicans say they support Johnson, and 13% say they want McMullin…
More independent voters prefer Clinton than Trump (29-25%). McMullin is not making his case very well with this group as only 8% of independents say they’ll vote for him. Meanwhile, independents are the strongest group for Gary Johnson as he checks in with 17%.
Nine percent sounds kinda sorta promising for McMullin given that he’s only been a candidate for a month, but bear in mind that PPP also had him at nine percent in the state three weeks ago. He hasn’t gained anything since then, it seems. As for Clinton, you see her basic problem here once again: She can’t get out of the mid-20s in polling. Obama took 35 percent in Utah in 2008 but slipped to 25 percent against Romney, the first Mormon major-party nominee. Hillary needs to replicate his 2008 performance to have any shot, even with help from McMullin and Johnson. In four polls of Utah since June, though, she’s pulled 27, 25, 24, and 24 percent. Increasingly it seems like her team has made some noise in Utah, opening a field office there and occasionally sending surrogates to the state, just to mess with Trump’s head a little and make him think he needs to play defense. If nothing else, it gives the media an excuse to write about how chilly Utah, one of America’s most reliably red states, is to the Republican nominee.
Speaking of which, here’s a detail about Utah from last week’s 50-state WaPo/SurveyMonkey poll. Trump led the four-way race in Utah in that one by a dismal 34/27 margin, with Gary Johnson at 23 percent — tantalizingly close to passing Hillary for second place. (Jill Stein had five percent.) Once again, she’s stuck in the mid-20s there, which means Trump should win the state easily. But not exactly comfortably:
When people are asked whether their presidencies would threaten America’s well-being, there’s essentially no difference between the Democratic and Republican nominees. In Utah.
The only man who might be able to make McMullinmania a thing in Utah is Mitt Romney and there’s no evidence yet that he’s prepared to gamble his remaining political cred on trying to influence the election there. If you think this cycle has been depressing for Romney so far, imagine him endorsing McMullin in the heart of Mormon America and Trump still winning the state by double digits. It’d be humiliating evidence of how little sway Romney has even over his biggest fans and it’d annoy party mandarins who don’t want him out there trying to sabotage Trump. I think he’ll continue to sit out.
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