A new poll shows Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) with a sizable lead in Utah’s upcoming caucus vote.
Cruz has 53 percent support, followed distantly by Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 29 percent. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has just 11 percent support in the Beehive State.
While Ted Cruz has been favored to win the Utah caucus on Tuesday, crossing the 50 percent threshold in the poll is important for his campaign. If a candidate captures 50 percent support in the caucus, the candidate wins all 40 of the state’s delegates. If a candidate doesn’t hit 50 percent, the delegates are apportioned to each candidate with at least 15 percent support.
The Utah poll is fascinating, because it reveals a Republican electorate that is deeply frustrated with Washington but also repelled by the Trump candidacy. More than 80 percent of Utah Republicans believe the national party is on the wrong track. However, a strong majority of Utah Republicans, 64 percent, believe Donald Trump will make the party weaker if he is the nominee.
Only 29 percent of Utah Republicans say they will support Trump in November if he is the nominee. Amazingly, one quarter of Republicans say they will write in another candidate. Smaller numbers say they will vote for a third-party candidate (15 percent) or vote for Democrats (7 percent).
The only threat to Cruz in Utah, it seems, is Kasich. While Kasich can’t win Utah, he can potentially deny Cruz a majority of the caucus vote, forcing him to split Utah’s 40 delegates. Kasich has devoted a fair amount of time to campaigning in Utah, revealing that his campaign isn’t simply about blocking Trump from amassing the necessary delegates to win the nomination. Kasich is also trying to block Cruz from collecting more delegates.
Kasich has openly questioned whether Trump can win a presidential race in November. He is also counting on the more questionable theory that Cruz is too conservative to win a general election. That theory has led the Republican party, arguably, to thumping election losses in 2008 and 2012.
Cruz has countered the Kasich campaign aggressively. He is campaigning in the state with Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee, who is very popular with the conservative voters that will likely dominate the caucus vote. Utah’s favorite (adopted) son, Mitt Romney, also announced Friday that he would be voting for Cruz in Tuesday’s caucus.
It will be a dramatic setback for Cruz if he is unable to capture all the delegates in Utah. Arizona is also voting on Tuesday, awarding all of its 58 delegates to the winner of the statewide vote. Polling is sketchy in the state, but Trump is thought to be favored to grab Arizona’s 58 delegates.
It is unlikely either Cruz or Kasich can prevail in the state while each is on the ballot. Were Trump to somehow lose both states on Tuesday, it would be a serious blow to his efforts to secure the necessary delegates ahead of the GOP convention in June.
The likliest outcome of Tuesday — Trump and Cruz winning all of the delegates in Arizona and Utah, respectively — would leave the race essentially unchanged heading into the final states.
As frontrunner, that’s a very good outcome for Donald Trump.