This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
There are ardent Donald Trump Republicans. There are Never Trump Republicans. And then there are the please-don't-ask-me-about-Trump-I'm-not-answering-that-question Republicans.
That last group includes some big-name Utahns such as Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. Mia Love and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Gov. Gary Herbert has treaded carefully, originally saying he's voting for the GOP's vice presidential candidate, Gov. Mike Pence, and ducking questions about Trump until recently.
In past presidential contests, it's been a no-brainer that Utah's Republican leaders would back their party's nominee. In 2012, Utah GOP elected officials jumped at the chance to endorse home-state favorite Romney.
But Trump is far from a traditional conservative candidate, and his personal life, combative style and policy positions have alienated a sizable chunk of the state's Republicans.
A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll asked likely GOP voters if their leaders should support their party's nominee. Sixty percent said yes.
At the same time, 57 percent of Republicans in the survey, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from Sept. 12 to 19, said they planned to vote for Trump.
"There's no election in recent memory where the candidates have been so disliked," said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. "Even people who are supporting one of these candidates don't feel they can tell their neighbors that they are."
State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said if he was asked the first poll question, he would have said Republican leaders should back the party's standard-bearer "with an asterisk for 2016." Weiler won't vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and, at this point, he probably won't vote for Trump. He's considering just skipping the presidential contest and voting in the other races.
"Or I may just write in Mitt Romney and call it good," he said. "It is depressing every time I think about it. I'm just so dissatisfied by my choices."
Weiler is having difficulty looking past Trump's history of infidelity. He also doesn't like some of the Republican's derogatory comments toward women and his hard-line stance against refugees from Syria and Iraq.
He plans to make a final call when the ballot comes in the mail and, no matter what choice he makes, as a sitting state lawmaker he wants to be able to explain it publicly.
"I believe voters deserve a little more transparency," he said. "And I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my life defending a vote for Donald Trump, whether he wins or loses."
Asked if the public has a reasonable expectation to know whom he's going to vote for, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said: "No."
"We have a secret ballot. When I decide to vote, that is my decision," he said. "I might choose to tell the voters of Utah how I'm going to vote and I might not, but, like any other citizen, I retain that right. That is my decision."
Lee has kept Trump at arm's length, even though the White House hopeful recently named him to a short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The first-term senator has found some of Trump's comments distasteful and has wanted to hear him voice support for limiting the role of the federal government and empowering states.
Lee has said he hasn't made up his mind, though he hasn't ruled out voting for Trump. And when pressed on whether he'll explain his vote, he just said: "We'll see."
Love, like Weiler, has lamented the choices available to her, ruling out a vote for Clinton and looking skeptically at two third-party candidates: Libertarian Gary Johnson and independent Evan McMullin. She's considering a vote for Trump or Johnson, though she called her options "subpar."
"There's an expectation to go out and support the Republican nominee," she said. "I feel like I'm doing a disservice to my district if I cannot give them a reason why."
Herbert has deflected questions about Trump in most public settings, but he gave his most expansive comments during a recent gubernatorial debate. He described his support for Trump largely by criticizing Clinton, her budget promises and her likely Supreme Court nominees.
When Herbert weighed in on a debate over rules pertaining to high school athletes transferring to other schools, House Speaker Greg Hughes, a Trump supporter, took a shot at him on Twitter: "Profile in courage. Courageous stand on high school sports. Do you have an opinion about who should be President of the US?"
Hughes, R-Draper, also urges Lee and Love to come into the fold, saying the party would be "stronger" if it was unified.
Romney, the GOP's last standard-bearer and now a Utah resident, won't be boarding the Trump train. He offered a strong rebuke of Trump in March, saying in a nationally televised speech that there was plenty of evidence that Trump is a "con man."
"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud," Romney said. "His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University."
Despite that scolding and a vow not to cast a ballot for Trump, Romney has not said how he's going to vote in this election despite repeated questions from the news media.
Romney's one-time GOP rival in the 2012 primaries, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., had said in April that it was time for the Republican Party to rally around Trump as he was close to vanquishing his opponents for the nomination. Huntsman then stayed relatively quiet until last week, when he offered several reasons he would be voting for Trump: The Supreme Court, tax reform, trade deals and more.
"Notwithstanding our highly flawed presidential primary process, desperately in need of reform, we still have a choice Clinton/Trump," Huntsman said in an email. "No third-party option is remotely viable."
Voters have to "deal with the hand dealt us by history," Huntsman said, so he's voting for Trump.
The public agonizing and debate among Republicans is likely to last the nearly six weeks left before Election Day. But Lee is right in saying the vote is his and he's under no legal obligation to divulge his choice, said Perry, from the Hinckley Institute.
He said: "The one unique private space you have as an American citizen is the voting booth."