This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert reiterated his support for Donald Trump on Thursday amid a stream of controversial comments from the Republican presidential nominee and signs that his support is lagging among Mormon voters.
The GOP governor said Trump's stances on U.S. Supreme Court nominations and the issue of states' rights continued to make him a preferable choice over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In his monthly news conference at KUED in Salt Lake City, Herbert turned aside widening concerns over Trump's public attacks in recent weeks on a Gold Star family and statements to Second Amendment activists that some saw as encouraging gun violence.
"Some of the things that people like about Mr. Trump are his unvarnished comments," Herbert said. "Clearly, what pops into his head and comes out of his mouth is sometimes unfiltered. And people find that refreshing, a politician who is not parsing his words. At the same time, that's off-putting to many others.
"It's a two-edged sword," he said.
Herbert again offered his praise of Trump's vice presidential choice, Michael Pence, calling the Indiana governor "a great individual" and saying he would "bring some stability."
"I'm voting for Mike Pence," the Utah governor said.
Utah Democrats pounced on Herbert's comments, condemning his continuing plan to vote for Trump in November.
"Unbelievable. Shameful. Appalling," said Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon. "Governor Herbert has shown once again that he prioritizes politics and his own party over what is best for the people of Utah."
By supporting "a man who is so clearly unfit and unqualified to be president," Corroon said, "Utahns know Gary Herbert is not looking out for their best interests."
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans quickly countered with a news release that parroted the exact wording of Corroon's statement, but substituted Clinton's name for Trump's and blasted Utah Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Weinholtz for supporting her.
Evans said he was confident Utahns would vote Republican this fall "like the last 60-plus years." (Actually, Utahns voted for Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, 52 years ago.)
In his statements to reporters, the governor said he was "not the apologist for the Trump campaign or any campaign out there other than my own."
Herbert, who is seeking re-election against Democratic candidate Michael Weinholtz, also sought to separate his own political fortunes from the top of the GOP ticket.
"I'm just focused on governing Utah and making sure we have the best economy, education reform, infrastructure and transportation," Herbert said. "That's what the people of Utah want me to concentrate on and that's what I am concentrating on."
A recent Dan Jones & Associates poll, commissioned by UtahPolicy.com, found Herbert crushing Weinholtz 64 percent to 23 percent. The survey of 858 likely Utah voters July 18 through Aug. 4 had a margin error of plus or minus 3.34 percentage points.
Herbert hinted that he expected Trump's temperament to change if he took the White House, while also pinning some of the real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-TV-star's missteps on his lack of experience.
"How you campaign is not necessarily how you're going to govern, and vice versa," the governor said. ""He's never run for office before, and so he doesn't have that traditional way of doing things. Again, that's part of his appeal."
Herbert accused Clinton of also making controversial statements, including ominous remarks about the U.S. coal industry and appearing to question the role of the business community in creating jobs.
"I'm not an apologist for Hillary Clinton either," he said.
The governor made light of a Clinton opinion piece, published Wednesday by the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, aimed at winning Mormon voters. In it, Clinton questioned Trump's temperament and views on religious liberties, while lauding Herbert for "setting a compassionate example" by welcoming Syrian refugees.
"Anytime anybody quotes me, I think they're very smart people," Herbert said, adding he appreciated Clinton's recognition that his decision to accept refugees when most Republican governors were vowing to attempt to reject them was "good policy."