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When it comes to Donald Trump, Utah Republicans fall into three distinct camps — those who support him, those who would grudgingly back him over a Democrat and those who are terrified about what he'd do if elected president.

The renegade campaign of the billionaire has split the party wide open, even as he has steamrolled into a big delegate lead over his two remaining challengers, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Prominent Utahns ranging from Mitt Romney, the last Republican presidential nominee, to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox have said they would not vote for Trump under any circumstance, labeling him as unfit to be the leader of the free world.

Rep. Chris Stewart has called Trump "our Mussolini," referring to the 20th-century fascist dictator of Italy, but wouldn't rule out voting for him.

Others, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said they'd back the GOP candidate no matter what.

Utahns will get a chance to weigh in Tuesday when the state holds its presidential caucuses. But with an eye toward the big showdown in November, The Salt Lake Tribune asked readers if they would vote for Trump if he becomes the nominee.

Nearly 600 people sent in their thoughts, including more than 200 who identified themselves as Republicans. The overwhelming majority of these GOP voters said they just can't support Trump.

And a new poll conducted by Y2 Analytics, released Saturday, backed them up, finding that just 29 percent of likely caucus attendees would vote for Trump in a general election. That leaves these conservatives contemplating a vote for the eventual Democratic nominee, which at this stage appears likely to be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or supporting a third-party candidate.

It's a quandary for people who feel a deep connection to the Grand Old Party.

Ashley Jacobson, a 30-year-old Cottonwood Heights resident, has never questioned the validity of a Republican nominee, but she's found Trump's rise disconcerting, as have most of her family members.

She has started to research Clinton and, if need be, is prepared to cast her first-ever vote for a Democratic presidential candidate.

"Someone who can represent the country is more important than someone who perfectly lines up with my values," she said. "But it is kind of hard to give up on some of the things that are important to me."

In particular, she doesn't expect Clinton to protect religious liberties as well as a mainstream Republican would, but she just can't fathom Trump negotiating with foreign leaders or picking a Supreme Court justice.

"I would be embarrassed to have him represent me and my nation," she said. "I would rather have Hillary run our country, even though I don't agree with some of her opinions, because at least she conducts herself like a mature, adult human being."

That is a line that Layton resident Henry Dall just can't cross. He says Trump is an inconsistent, dishonest candidate, who changes his views "continually."

He also has been concerned about some of Trump's statements.

"The comments he has made about various races, religions, creeds are in some cases so outrageous," Dall said, "that what he is doing is alienating the very people who might vote for him as an outsider."

But if he had to pick Trump or Clinton, he'd grudgingly vote for Trump.

He believes Clinton isn't credible, honest or accountable, pointing to the scandal over her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, or the debate over her role in the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack that killed four Americans.

"Right now, I feel the two potential candidates are not the candidates that should even be running," said Dall, 63. "I think this is the worst option I have had in the entire time I have been voting, which is 40 years."

A few Republican responses to The Tribune's question mentioned Romney's recent speech criticizing Trump — criticisms that Romney amplified Friday in denouncing the racism, misogyny, bigotry, vulgarity and violence associated with what he called "Trumpism."

Several readers also suggested that Trump's stance on Muslims means he might one day threaten other faiths, including Utah's predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When Springville resident Margo Christensen hears fellow Republicans trashing Trump, she dismisses them as supporters of the establishment. What attracts her to Trump is that he's an outsider to the political system; what Dall considers "outrageous" statements, she considers truth-telling from a macho politician.

"He's a man's man," said Christensen, 67, a former teacher, with a master's degree. "If you are going to go after him, he is going to go after you."

She believes that is what the nation needs: a strong man who is willing to take on the establishment in Washington and unafraid to take the fight to the Islamic State terrorist group in the Middle East. She's frustrated that Republicans hold the majority in the House and Senate, but haven't done more to combat the policies of President Barack Obama.

"I'm just a normal person who thinks things have gotten way out of hand," she said.

Christensen knows that many voters, including many Republicans, say Trump is a bigot because of his talk about undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Muslims and his involvement in the "birther" movement questioning whether Obama was a U.S. citizen.

"I personally don't see him as a bigot," she said. "I have nothing against the Muslim religion, absolutely not, but I'm not so sure they shouldn't be carefully checked before they come into the United States."

Those Utah voters who told The Tribune that they support Trump often mentioned that he isn't a career politician and he doesn't take money from special interests. They also tend to embrace his two signature policies, building a wall along the southern border and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.

John Nagy likes Trump because he's a businessman and a moderate.

"He is not socially conservative," he said, "and he is willing to negotiate with anybody, foreign or domestic."

But some Republicans who oppose Trump sent in statements similar to those of Democrats, signaling that even in one of the most Republican states in the nation, a Trump nomination could spell trouble in November.

Kathleen Gardner, a Democrat, said: "He's an embarrassment to our country and not qualified to be the leader of the free world. ANY of the other candidates would be preferable."

Richard Rhees, a Republican, said: "The man is a dishonest, vulgar demagogue, who is totally unsuited for the office of president. He is playing the American people like a trout on a line. I truly fear for our country."

Utah's presidential caucuses Tuesday will show just how strong Trump is in the state. Anyone who will be at least 18 years old by Nov. 8 can find their caucus location at Those registered in other parties must switch to Republican to vote in the GOP race. Anyone can participate in the Democratic caucus.

This story was informed by sources in the Utah Public Insight Network. To become a news source for The Salt Lake Tribune, go to