This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence will stump in Utah on Wednesday, two weeks ahead of Election Day, in an effort to keep Utah from falling out of the Republican column for the first time since 1964.
Pence will appear during a rally at Salt Lake City's Infinity Event Center, 26 E. 600 South, at 3 p.m., a quick stop-over in the traditionally Republican Beehive State, before heading back to the airport to continue the frantic barnstorming as time ticks down in the election.
It is a rarity for such a high-profile figure to appear in Utah so near the election because Democrats have long conceded the state but this year is different.
Recent polling has shown a close race this year as the unpopular Republican nominee Donald Trump fights to hold on to Utah's six electoral votes. Some polls show Trump leading, but others show either a three-way toss-up with Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton and independent conservative Evan McMullin, or else they give McMullin a slight lead.
The Clinton campaign has deployed additional campaign staffers to Utah, if nothing else forcing Trump to spend some time and money in the state.
"It validates the comment that Trump made a couple months ago that he has trouble in the state of Utah, and that trouble hasn't gone away. It's still a state that he needs to spend time in," said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. "The narrative that this reliably red state could even go to a third-party candidate is one he needs to fix."
Pence, who is popular in Utah, came here in August, keynoting a policy conference hosted by Sen. Mike Lee before attending a fundraiser at the home of Scott Keller and visiting with officials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
At that point, Trump, while not popular in Utah, still seemed like a sure bet to win the state. But revelations of a recording of Trump discussing sexually aggressive behavior toward women and allegations of improper sexual behavior by the nominee has Team Trump taking on water and sinking fast.
Trump's electoral prognosis is grim, but dropping even a small-impact state like Utah would constitute a serious blow.
Since Pence's last visit, and in the aftermath of the recording's release, Lee called on Trump to get out of the race, as has Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who had said he would vote for Trump because he supports Pence, said he, too, would not vote for the GOP nominee.
Pence is the guy in the Trump campaign who can ease jittery voters, Perry said, and the visit is significant, particularly so close to the election.
"This has been a state that should have been reliable red, and instead it has been a source of discussion all over the country and Pence has been the guy on the ticket that has given comfort to many people in the state," Perry said. "So having him come to the state of Utah shows the Trump campaign recognizes the importance of Utah and he understands that Pence can right the ship and bring some confidence."