The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans took Donald Trump aside during Trump’s Las Vegas campaign stop on Saturday to express his concerns that Utah could become a battleground state because of the candidate’s unpopularity. Utah, one of the most conservative states in the country, hasn’t voted for a Democratic candidate in 52 years, but a recent poll showed Trump and Hillary Clinton tied in the state, and the Utah GOP isn’t taking any chances. As a result of the meeting, Trump has apparently pledged to campaign in the state following the Republican convention next month.
Whether or not Trump takes the rest of Evans’s advice is unknown. The chairman reportedly asked Trump to “tone down comments that have resulted in some Republicans accusing him of racism and xenophobia” and stressed that Utah voters look for “consistency and predictability” in their presidential candidates. Evans, who is black, told the Tribune he believes Trump’s perceived racism is “more of a show,” and that he thinks Trump now “recognizes he shouldn’t have made those comments” about Muslims or about the Mexican ancestry of the judge presiding over the Trump University case.
As Utah is a predominantly Mormon state and Mormons really don’t like Trump, it seems at least possible that Clinton could steal the state in November, though Evans believes voters will come around to rejecting Clinton when the time comes. Regardless, he has already developed a Trump coping strategy if the candidate’s popularity in the state doesn’t improve. That strategy is called “Plan T,” though the “T” apparently stands for “turnout,” not “Trump.” The Tribune describes Plan T as “an attempt to persuade voters who dislike the presidential candidate to vote for local Republicans.”
And Trump might have another purple state problem nearby as well, as the Washington Post reports that, though “there is no recent reliable public polling in Arizona,” and the Clinton campaign hasn’t started targeting it yet, “Democratic and Republican strategists said private research shows the presidential race [there] as a toss-up.”
This post has been updated to include the news that Arizona might also become a swing state this year.