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Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes publicly ridiculed Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday for the governor's dogged refusal to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump for president.

The exchange went down on Twitter after Herbert posted a Tweet opposing a proposal that would allow high school coaches to recruit athletes to play for their program, regardless of where they live.

"I love sports," wrote the governor, who was a star athlete in high school, "but this proposal goes too far. Let's keep the focus where it belongs on students and academics."

Hughes, who is a Trump supporter, jumped in a few minutes later responding: "Profile in courage. Courageous stand on high school sports. Do you have an opinion about who should be President of the US?"

It was something of a page from Trump's playbook. The GOP nominee has taken to Twitter numerous times to pointedly chastise figures from both parties.

For months, Herbert has dodged point-blank questions about whether he supports Trump for president, shifting the question to express his support for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for vice president.

"I'm a practical guy and you know how I'm going to vote. I really believe in Mike Pence. I believe he brings some stability and vision and I believe he lines up well with Utah," Herbert said during a recent KUED news conference.

So why did he refuse to join Hughes, Sen. Orrin Hatch and other elected Republican leaders in a letter endorsing the party nominee?

"I don't need to talk about this anymore," he curtly responded.

A spokesman for the governor declined to comment on Hughes' Twitter jab.

The House speaker said he called Herbert on the carpet to draw attention to the contradiction in the governor's leadership.

"You can take low-hanging fruit or a popular issue and ride the wave and pile on, but on issues of huge magnitude, we're not getting any heavy lifting," Hughes said. "We're not getting any direct answers, so there's an amazing contrast to me on that."

The Draper Republican noted that Herbert refused to sign the letter welcoming Pence to the state and supporting Trump, but the governor was willing to introduce Pence at a speaking engagement, ride in Pence's motorcade, attend the Trump fundraiser, and accompany Pence around Temple Square.

"I just don't understand the point of it," Hughes said of Herbert's reticence. "If it's 'Do nothing to offend no one,' you bring more attention to yourself by being an outlier."

Herbert is not alone in refusing to endorse Trump. Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Mia Love also have yet to express support for his candidacy. And Trump continues to struggle in Utah generally.

The most recent poll of the state, conducted by, showed Trump at 42 percent, Democrat Hillary Clinton at 22 percent, and Libertarian Gary Johnson at 20 percent. It is Trump's best showing in any Utah poll so far, but still lags well behind the typical Republican performance in a state that hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Mitt Romney won 73 percent of the state four years ago; John McCain got 62 percent in 2008; and George W. Bush won 72 percent in 2004 and 67 percent four years before that.

It's not the first time that a House speaker has challenged the governor's spine. In 2014, then-Speaker Becky Lockhart challenged the governor for failing to be a stronger leader.

"We need energy in the executive, not an inaction figure in the executive," she said on the opening day of the legislative session.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke