'Utah Politics’ podcast: How Mitt Romney shapes the perception of Trump in Utah

Utah is perhaps the most anti-Trump of all the Republican states. President Donald Trump carried Utah in 2016 with just 45.5% of the vote, and his approval ratings have hovered around that level ever since.

Elections expert and political scientist Rachel Bitecofer says there’s a good reason heavily Republican Utah is so widely skeptical of Trump, and that’s Sen. Mitt Romney. She says Romney’s “political bravery” as one of the only sitting Republicans in Congress to publicly criticize Trump, has given permission for Utah Republicans and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to break away from the rest of the GOP.

“You could say Mitt Romney is allowed to be brave because the Republican Mormon population in Utah has let him be brave, and there’s some element of that,” she says. “But, generally speaking, public opinion flows from the top down.”

Bitecofer, who is a senior elections fellow at the Niskanen Center in Washington, D.C., gained a measure of notoriety ahead of the 2018 election when she predicted the “blue wave” that swept Democrats into the majority in the House of Representatives. She is also an adviser to the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, a group made up mostly of former Republicans who are working to prevent Trump from winning a second term in the White House.

On the “Utah Politics” podcast, Bitecofer says she expects Trump to do a little better in Utah in 2020 than he did in 2016, but not by much.

“I do think Trump is going to overperform what he did in Utah in 2016, but I don’t think it’s going to be a tremendous overperformance. I think he’s going to struggle, and a lot of credit for that has to go to Senator Romney,” says Bitecofer.

You can listen to the full interview with Rachel Bitecofer below or at this link. She discusses why Democrats don’t need to get Republicans to vote for them in order to win most elections, and why voters are more motivated to vote against a candidate rather than for someone.

Rachel Bitecofer on Twitter: @RachelBitecofer

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