Hillary Clinton’s campaign is making “a strong play” to win Utah, a state that Democrats have not carried since 1964, her running mate, Tim Kaine, said Thursday.
Kaine, the party’s vice-presidential nominee, spoke to a Salt Lake City television station remotely from New York, relaying that the Clinton campaign will step up its focus on the state, where it sees an opportunity against a weakened Donald Trump.
“Hopefully we’ll even have candidates or spouses or high-profile surrogates visit here,” Kaine, a senator from Virginia, told television station KTVX. “We’re three and a half weeks out in a state that we didn’t think was in play. Now it is.”
Trump and Clinton were knotted at 26 percent in Utah, with independent candidate Evan McMullin at 22 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson at 14 percent in a poll released this week by Y2 Analytics.
“We’re now seeing polling suggesting that this is winnable,” Kaine told the TV station, adding that the Clinton campaign is also trying to “expand our map” in other ways as Trump has become immersed in controversy over his lewd comments and treatment of women.
Kaine cited his campaign trip last week to Arizona — another Republican-leaning state — as evidence that the Clinton campaign sees potential there as well.
Trump has failed to nail down Utah in large part because the state’s heavily Mormon population has not embraced him. In Utah’s Republican caucuses, Trump finished third, with just 14 percent of the vote.
Kaine told KTVX that he thinks two factors have hurt Trump with the Mormon population: his “real disrespectful attitudes toward women” and his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
“There’s no religious group in the country that understands more about what it is to be persecuted for your religion than Mormons,” Kaine said.
Clinton's campaign opened an office in Salt Lake City in August, a move largely dismissed as bravado at the time.
McMullin, a former CIA officer and a Mormon who has not made much headway in other states, has sought to capitalize on the dynamic in Utah. Given the high negatives associated with both Trump and Clinton, some analysts give him an outside shot of winning the state.
Kaine said he’d prefer a Clinton win but noted that a McMullin victory would still be “a plus for us,” by denying Trump the state’s six electoral votes.