A poll this week of likely voters in Utah shows independent Evan McMullin besting both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the deeply conservative Republican stronghold of Utah.
The poll by Emerson College, released Wednesday, shows McMullin with a four-point lead over Trump — 31 percent to 27 percent. Clinton comes in third place in Utah with 24 percent of the vote.
The Emerson poll result showing McMullin in the lead isn’t particularly shocking because the Utah presidential race has been crazy, fluid and unpredictable for months now.
The last 20 or so presidential polls in Utah have shown Trump either leading or tied, notes The Salt Lake Tribune. However, Trump has never enjoyed the kind of safe, overwhelming lead you would expect in a state where Democrats have not sniffed presidential victory since 1964.
The actual numbers in the previous polls in Utah have been consistently inconsistent.
A CBS News poll from just last week showed Trump running away with the state by 17 points, for example.
A poll conducted by Y2 Analytics from earlier this month declared Trump and Clinton essentially tied.
A Deseret News/KSL poll conducted back in March, right around the time of Utah’s Republican presidential caucus, indicated that Utah voters would rather elect a Democrat than elect Trump.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won Utah’s GOP caucus with a whopping 69 percent of the vote. Trump finished third — behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich — with just 14 percent of the vote
“I think that what we’re seeing in the state of Utah is an electorate that’s in flux,” retired professional pollster Dave Spatafore opined to Salt Lake City CBS affiliate KUTV.
Interviews with the veritable man and woman on the street in Salt Lake City suggest indecision and some hostility toward Trump.
“I considered voting for Trump, then the more things went on, I said ‘I can’t do it,'” a woman identified as Marni told the station.
“My honest answer to them was Hillary, was just to give them an answer,” a guy named David recalled telling a pollster.
McMullin is a 40-year-old, Provo-born Mormon with a Brigham Young University law degree and a 10-year stint as a CIA officer on his résumé. He has also worked as a policy director and national security adviser for the U.S. House of Representatives. And, like Trump, he has a degree from the Wharton School of Business (except McMullin’s degree is an MBA).
In a nutshell, McMullin’s pitch is that he is the anti-Trump: an advocate for free markets, free trade and compassionate, big-tent conservativism.
He has drawn large crowds in recent weeks as he has barnstormed around Utah.
“A real conservative, when they see somebody else being attacked for their religion or because of their race, a real conservative will stand up and protect other people,” the independent conservative said to boisterous applause at a recent campaign stop, according to Fortune.
“No matter what happens on Nov. 8, if we can send a strong message from Utah and the broader Mountain West, it will change the discussion in Washington and across this country,” McMullin also said. “The nation is watching what we do here.”
Sensing an opening to snare a surprise, total victory in a three-way race, the Hillary Clinton campaign has hired a five new staffers to peel away undecided Utah voters, according to CNN.
Nationally, polls suggest that Clinton continues to maintain a comfortable Electoral College lead. This weekend’s Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation poll shows Clinton with a greater-than-95-percent chance of becoming the next U.S. president.
Reuters predicts an Electoral College outcome of 326 votes for Clinton to 212 for Trump.
A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the election.
Utah will provide 6 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most vote in the state on Tuesday, Nov. 8.