Trump 30, McMullin 29, Clinton 28:
An earlier YouGov poll tracker, published by CBS news over the weekend showed Trump with a 17 point lead over Clinton in Utah, but the script only prompted respondents with the names of Trump and Clinton, then only if they selected ‘someone else’ offered them Johnson, Stein or McMullin (McMullin scored 20% in that poll).
Worse news for Trump is his favorable/unfavorable. Trump has unfavorables of 54% (very) and 14% somewhat. His very/somewhat favorables are 12% and 19%.
Clinton has unfavorables that are even worse: very/somewhat splits 60%/12%. Neither have an ‘unknown’ score.
When asked if they approve or disapprove of the Utah Republican leadership’s decision to dump Trump after his “Access Hollywood” tape came out, Utahns split 58/33.
Back to the question up top, though: Which poll is the true outlier, YouGov or Rasmussen? As noted in the excerpt, YouGov’s poll required a two-step process to choosing McMullin, which may have ended up lowballing his true support in the state. And when you look at other recent surveys of Utah, Rasmussen’s numbers are closer to the consensus. Before YouGov’s poll yesterday, the last time Trump led by double digits there was more than a month ago. Two other recent polls (Y2 Analytics and Monmouth) had McMullin at 20 percent or better and Trump’s lead over Clinton at six points or less. And those polls were conducted mostly before the sexual-assault allegations began dropping. It’s not hard to believe that the latest dirt, coupled with Trump’s reaction to it, has driven even more Republican loyalists into McMullin’s column — and not just from Trump’s base of support. Rasmussen is the third straight poll to find Gary Johnson suddenly in single digits in Utah after he was polling reliably at 13-14 percent in August and September; at five percent, he’s at his nadir in the state as McMullin is surging. Obviously, a substantial chunk of Johnson’s support in Utah was Republicans who were looking for an alternative to Trump and were willing to accept a libertarian so long as there was no traditional conservative on the ballot. Now that there is a traditional conservative on the ballot, they’re abandoning Johnson. McMullin is consolidating the anti-Trumpers.
Hillary, by the way, hasn’t yet cracked 30 percent in a poll of Utah, although she’s now hit 28 twice in the last two weeks. Her ceiling appears to be a lot firmer than McMullin’s. If her team is smart, they’re better off quietly doing what they can to boost his candidacy in the interest of pulling electoral votes out of Trump’s column than trying to win the state themselves. Also of note: McMullin is in a statistical tie with Trump despite the fact that he has yet to land a single major Republican endorsement. Ironically, I wonder if this poll will lead some who were considering endorsing him to hold back a bit longer. Normally a candidate’s rise in the polls triggers an avalanche of public support from pols in his party as they become convinced he can win. McMullin, though, technically has no party; endorsing him would open up Mike Lee, Gary Herbert, Jason Chaffetz, and Mitt Romney to charges that they’ve stabbed the Republican nominee in the back. Lee et al. will look at this poll and think, “If McMullin can win the state without my help, so much the better.” That’s especially true with Trump’s numbers fading nationally, too. If the election were tight and Utah looked poised to be decisive, Lee and Romney might decide it’s their patriotic duty to try to stop Trump there. If Clinton’s going to win nationally anyway, though, why spend any political capital on McMullin? Just cheer him on privately.
Speaking of which, a tweet this morning from McMullin advisor Rick Wilson:
The same "I hate Trump but I can't say anything publicly" elected Rs are sending us congratulatory texts and emails.
Man up, boys.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) October 17, 2016
The endgame for McMullin here, I think, is a Senate run in Utah in 2018. Orrin Hatch is 82 and has said he’ll retire after this term (although geriatric senators sometimes change their minds when forced to contemplate losing power). McMullin will be well positioned in the state to run to succeed him: His name recognition there will be sky high after this campaign, especially if he pulls the upset and becomes the first third-party candidate in nearly 50 years to win electoral votes, and he’ll have tons of goodwill from anti-Trump Republicans for offering them an alternative. He would have had zero chance running against a Mia Love or Jason Chaffetz in the Senate primary as an unknown. Now he’ll have a fighting chance. (That may also explain why Chaffetz hasn’t, and won’t, endorse McMullin. He’d be promoting a potential competitor in 2018 by doing so.)
Incidentally, although Utah is obviously McMullin’s big play, don’t ignore the possibility that he’ll affect the elections in Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona too, all of which have large Mormon minorities. He’s not going to win NV or AZ, needless to say, but the more national media coverage he gets from his Utah surge, the greater the chance that Mormons in those states will consider him as an alternative to Trump. (He’s on the ballot in Idaho and is a recognized write-in candidate in Arizona.) An endorsement by Romney, given his national profile, might be especially important in making Mormons outside Utah pay attention, and Arizona’s tight enough that that could tip the state to Clinton. But again, increasingly this looks like a matter of holding Trump’s electoral vote count down, not changing the outcome of the election. Anti-Trumpers are trying to make a statement about the depth of opposition to Trump. A big statement in Utah, as it turns out.