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Donald Trump wins in Utah

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A group of Trump supporters wave flags on the corner of 2100 S State Street in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Put Utah in the GOP column. President Donald Trump took a commanding lead over Democrat Joe Biden in the Beehive State on Tuesday night, putting him on track to pocket the state’s six electoral votes.

The unofficial results, as of midnight., show Trump with 58% of the vote to Biden’s 38.4%. These early results included Salt Lake and Utah counties, the state’s two largest, but many of the rural counties have not yet reported.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown was pleased that Utah remained in the GOP column, though he also issued a request.

“As a party, we’re not surprised to see President Trump win here in Utah,” he said. “Regardless of how the presidential election plays out nationally, we call on all Utahns to treat each other with civility and respect.”

Former Utah GOP chairman and gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright has been a supporter of Trump since he first won election in 2016 and says tonight’s results confirm what he’s known since then.

“At the end of the day, Utahns are most concerned about issues of jobs and the economy, safe communities, and individual freedom and responsibility,” said Wright. “From the results, it’s clear that they think the Republican Party is the best vehicle for government policies that create strong economies—low taxes, efficient government, reasonable regulations.”

Trump will clearly beat his 2016 winning percentage when all of the votes are counted. Four years ago he captured 45.5% of the vote on the way to victory, though that year independent candidate Evan McMullin was able to pull nearly 22% of the vote. Hillary Clinton finished behind Trump with 27%.

Trump’s low total in Utah four years ago was, in part, a function of Latter-day Saint voters being uneasy with his behavior, especially following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape and his multiple extramarital affairs. That trend seems to have continued this year. Pre-election polling showed only 65% of Utah LDS voters supported Trump’s reelection bid, a huge decline from past elections.

Polling showed the race tightening a bit in October, with the final Utah survey from Y2 Analytics giving Trump a 7-point margin. That’s the closest the polling has been since a survey in May gave Trump a 6-point lead over Biden. The final FiveThirtyEight average showed Trump +9.8% over Biden in Utah.

Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Chris Stewart, who opposed Trump during his initial run in 2016, went all-in for him this year as both men served as the co-chairs of the campaign in his state. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Mitt Romney didn’t cast a ballot for Trump again this year. In 2016, Romney wrote in his wife Ann’s name, but wouldn’t say who he voted for this year.

Once again, Utah was a political orphan when it came to the presidential race. Neither campaign made a stop in the Beehive State, although Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris did visit when they faced off in their one and only debate at the University of Utah in early October.

If Biden finishes anywhere above 37% in the final polling, it would be the best showing by a Democrat in Utah in more than a half-century. Lyndon Johnson was the last Democrat to win Utah in 1964. Hubert Humphrey received 37% of the vote four years later.

Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 5-1 margin in Utah, and the state has been reliably Republican since 1968.

Including tonight’s win by Trump, Utah has gone for the Republican presidential candidate in each of the past 14 elections, which is tied for the longest current streak with eight other states. However, that’s not even close to the longest streak ever which saw Vermont go for the GOP nominee 27 straight elections from 1865-1960.

While Trump’s margin of victory may seem a little too close for comfort for Utah Republicans, it’s far from the closest presidential election in Utah’s history. That distinction belongs to Republican William McKinley who squeaked past Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1900 by just 2.29 percentage points. The biggest presidential blowout in Utahns history belongs to Ronald Reagan who romped past Jimmy Carter in 1980 by more than 52-points.

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