How Utah Could Go Blue in 2020

Utah is very well known for its Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon) population, which itself is known for conservative views and Republican poster boy Mitt Romney (who was born in Detroit and served as the 70th governor of Massachusetts). In 2016, the "Beehive State" gave then candidate Donald Trump 515,231 votes (45.54%), while Hillary Clinton received 310,676 votes (27.46%) and Evan McMullin got 243,690 votes (21.54%). The only Utah counties that went blue were Salt Lake and Summit. President Donald Trump won Utah in his first election by over 200,000 votes, but that could realistically change in 2020.

Even though a large amount of Mormons have conservative social views and make up approximately sixty percent of the Utahn population, there is one person that has unified this predominantly-white voting group against the Republican party: Donald Trump. Most Mormons hate Donald Trump because his misogynistic, adulterous, and narcissistic lifestyle does not reflect the values of the LDS Church. Mitt Romney, alongside other notable LDS leaders like Arizona's Jeff Flake, have condemned Trump for years now. In fact, Trump did everything he could to keep Romney from winning his Utah Senate seat in 2018.

In the Trump era, more and more Mormons are straying from the Republican Party (or whatever is left of the Republican Party). This can be seen by the amount of votes independent candidate McMullin received in 2016, as well as the election of Ben McAdams, a Mormon Democrat, to the House in 2018. I'm not saying that every single member of the LDS religion will vote for Democrats in 2020, but quite a few might based on the last two elections.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders received almost 80% of the vote in the Utah Democratic primary. Ted Cruz took almost 70% of the Republican primary vote, with John Kasich coming in second. Trump took 14% of the vote. The Republican primary has about 100,000 more voters than its blue counterpart. Although there were many factors that contributed to these results, they show that the Mormons are increasingly more likely to vote for an outside candidate than an incumbent Trump. 

Now here's where we get a little radical. Clinton and McMullin combined had over 554,000 votes in 2016, 40,000 more than Trump. I'm not saying that all of the LDS voters who supported McMullin will vote for any other independent or Democratic candidate. However, if that many people voted for an independent candidate they knew wouldn't win, only receiving 0.54% of the vote nationally in 2016, and the 15,666 votes Clinton received in the Democratic primary grew to 310,676 in the general election, it's very possible that with the right candidate, a Democrat could win in 2020.

Bernie Sanders won Utah's Democratic primary in 2016 with four times the support of Clinton. There are less than 200,000 total registered Democrats in the state of Utah, yet Clinton received over 300,000 votes. If every Utahn who voted for Clinton in 2016 and those who felt alienated by the selection of candidates voted for Bernie in 2020, he could be up to 400,000 votes. 

Bernie is a registered independent, which means he could appeal to more voters than regular Democratic candidates. Factor in all the independent votes that went to McMullin and take out half to account for the conservative nature of Utah, and in this hypothetical election Bernie (narrowly) beats Trump in Utah. There are many issues with this unlikely, but possible scenario, with the main one being that McMullin is from Utah. Even though he ran as an independent, he was a good representative of factions of Mormon voters. Also, Bernie and McMullin’s platforms are about as similar as the menus at Outback Steakhouse and Burger King.

It’s more reasonable to assume a moderate Democrat would fare better than a progressive one. In a more realistic prediction, Donald Trump will be reelected in 2020 with the help of Utah’s minor amount of delegates. As of August 30th's FiveThirtyEight polls, the only Democrats projected to beat President Trump are Senators Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders.

The moral of this article: no matter who you support in the primaries, get registered and go vote for someone. Then, if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, etc. that opposes the incumbent POTUS, vote for the Democratic candidate or at the very least a conservative counterpoint. The 2020 election is the most important in this lifetime. It’s like an old teacher of mine once said, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain about the results."

 

Photo Source: 1 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)