Shock Utah poll: Trump crumbles, now even with Clinton as Evan McMullin pulls within four

McMullin moved on Utah very heavily, that I can tell you.

I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but here you go: The fourth-party candidate is probably the favorite right now to win America’s reddest state.

The poll shows Clinton and Trump tied at 26 percent, McMullin with 22 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson getting 14 percent if the election were held today. Y2 Analytics surveyed 500 likely Utah voters over landlines and cellphones Oct. 10-11 The poll has a plus or minus 4.4 percent margin of error…

Also, a majority of voters statewide and specifically Mormons, as well as a near majority of Republicans, say Trump should drop out of the race, according to the poll.

The poll shows that 94 percent of Utahns have watched or heard about the video in which Trump had an extremely lewd conversation about women caught on a hot microphone in 2005. Y2 Analytics managing partner Scott Riding called that high percentage “astounding” for political news…

McMullin’s ballot strength is striking considering that only 52 percent of voters are aware enough of his candidacy to offer an opinion, according to Y2 Analytics. However, among those that recognize his name, four out of five see him favorably.

Shocking, and yet not so shocking. The most aggressive Republican stampede away from Trump after the “Access Hollywood” tape dropped last Friday came in Utah, where Jason Chaffetz and Gov. Gary Herbert quickly un-endorsed him and Mike Lee called on Trump to drop out. Mitt Romney, who’s refused to endorse since the beginning, also blasted him on Twitter. Party loyalty was the only thing buoying up a boorish playboy candidate in a state where he’s a total mismatch for the socially conservative Mormon electorate, but up to this point that’s been enough. He’s never broken 40 percent in Utah (a state that typically gives the Republican nominee 60-70 on Election Day), but that looked like it’d be sufficient to win with Clinton perpetually mired in the mid-20s and Gary Johnson and McMullin puttering around the teens. In the end, enough Republicans would check the Republican box to save Trump. Now, with the Utah GOP leadership cutting him loose and the bonds of party loyalty partially dissolved, the bottom has dropped out. Clinton and McMullin both have a legit shot to win. And McMullin is taking full advantage:

McMullin spent Saturday night meeting privately with top Republicans in Utah, according to two sources, and he could start rolling out high-profile endorsements in the state as early as next week. Johnson, whose campaign is headquartered in Salt Lake City, will no doubt try to capitalize on Trump’s tailspin, as will Clinton, who opened a campaign office in the state in August. It’s unclear whether any of these candidates will be able to make up enough ground in the next month to pull off a win — but Trump’s opponents in the state are eager to try.

Utah was the obvious play for McMullin since the beginning given his roots there and his Mormon faith. Right now, as noted above, his major problem there is that he’s still not that well known. If prominent Mormon Republicans, starting with Romney, begin endorsing him, that’ll change quickly. It might change even if they don’t, in fact: The buzz in Utah around this poll will help convince some reluctant Trump voters that they wouldn’t be throwing their vote away on a candidate who can’t possibly win the state if they back McMullin. And the more Trump’s polls tank nationally, the less there is to lose for loyal Utah Republicans by voting their conscience. It’s one thing to blow a vote on the fourth-party candidate when you’re worried that the national election will be close and a McMullin upset in Utah would hand the presidency to Clinton. It’s another thing to cast that vote believing that the outcome of the election is already a fait accompli. If Utahns hate Trump and the result in their state doesn’t matter anymore, why not vote for the guy they actually like instead?

Incidentally, Team Clinton’s internal polling must also be showing a Trump trainwreck in Utah or else she wouldn’t have bothered rolling out that “Mormons for Hillary” ad yesterday. She’s fighting a losing battle, though, I think. The Deseret News poll linked up top shows her unfavorable rating in the state at around 70 percent, about as bad as Trump’s is. Of the three unlikely outcomes in Utah now in play — Trump recovers and holds the state, McMullin surges past him among Republicans and wins, and Trump and McMullin split evenly and Clinton somehow nudges past them to win — number three seems the least likely, as only McMullin has upward momentum. But who knows? The Salt Lake Tribune endorsed her today, and the fact that the state is in play might boost morale among Utah Democrats who wouldn’t have bothered to vote otherwise but now see an opportunity for an upset. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that Trump finishes third. In Utah.

Not that it matters to Hillary at this point. Exit question: Will Romney et al. endorse McMullin or just sit out the election?

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023