This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Concerned with polls showing Hillary Clinton has a chance to win in one of the most conservative states in the nation, Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans huddled with Donald Trump in Las Vegas on Saturday.
They talked for half an hour shortly before Trump held a packed rally at the Treasure Island casino, and he vowed to campaign in Utah after the national convention in Cleveland in July.
"He's definitely coming back out," said Evans in an interview after the conversation organized by Trump's son, Don Jr.
Evans said he encouraged Trump to tone down comments that have resulted in some Republicans accusing him of racism and xenophobia, such as attacks on a federal judge of Hispanic descent and a call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country as a way to combat terrorism.
Evans said Utahns want to see "consistency and predictability" in their presidential candidates, and he suggested most of Trump's racially charged statements are part of an act.
"When you sit down with him you can see that it is more of a show, you know, and if anybody would know that somebody has that kind of sentiment in them, it would be me growing up in the South," said Evans, who is African-American. "I could spot it a mile away and you just don't see that in him."
Evans said Trump's statements about the judge and Muslims were "unproductive" and he argued Trump "recognizes he shouldn't have made those comments."
But at the same time, he said, "a presidential race cannot come down to one or two comments."
Evans believes as Election Day draws closer, Utah's conservatives will back the Republican nominee, even if it is simply to reject Clinton. He encouraged Trump to argue Clinton lacks the "integrity" to be president, and he wants to make the race as much about her personality as it is about Trump's.
A recent poll commissioned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics showed Trump and Clinton deadlocked at 35 percent, with Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson receiving the support of 13 percent of likely November voters. If Clinton were to prevail, it would be the first time Utah went to a Democrat in 52 years.
Mormon voters in particular seem concerned about Trump, who came in third in the state's presidential primary. That camp has been led by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, who is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Romney has accused Trump of "trickle down racism" and said Trump doesn't have the temperament to be the commander in chief.
When Trump held a rally in Utah in the days leading up to the March caucus, he questioned Romney's faith saying, "Are you sure he is a Mormon?"
With so many Utah Republicans concerned about Trump, Evans has launched what he calls "Plan T," an attempt to persuade voters who dislike the presidential candidate to vote for local Republicans.
When previously asked if the "T" stands for Trump, Evans said: "It may or may not be a coincidence."
After meeting with Trump, he said the "T" stands for turnout and that Trump will likely help with that effort by holding a fundraiser during his expected campaign stop in the state later this year.
Trump also praised Utah's strong economic growth and told Evans that if elected, he plans to use the Beehive State as an example.
Utah isn't the only traditionally Republican state where Trump has struggled, polls also indicate a tight race in Arizona, Kansas and Georgia. If he were to lose any of those states, it would be difficult for him to get enough Electoral College votes to win the White House.
But he didn't lack for confidence in his conversation with Utah's Republican chairman. He told Evans: "I'm going to win and I need Utah to help make that happen."