This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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 nominee Mike Pence held a rally Wednesday in hopes of salvaging reliably red Utah amid a voter revolt that has endangered his running mate Donald Trump, calling for Republicans to "come home" and pick a candidate who will defend conservative values.
"The truth of the matter is there are only two names on the ballot who have a chance to be president of the United States," Pence said, taking a jab at independent Evan McMullin, who is threatening to pull a historic upset in Utah. "A vote for any candidate other than Donald Trump, bottom line, is a vote to make Hillary Clinton the 45th president of the United States, so it's time to come home. It's time for Republicans to come home. Come home to vote for the Trump-Pence team."
Pence, who is far more popular in Utah than Trump, told the boisterous crowd of about 1,200 supporters in Salt Lake City that a Clinton presidency would erode the rule of law, expand abortion access, undermine the right to bear arms and infringe on "all our God-given liberties in the Bill of Rights."
Pence came to Utah to shore up flagging support, but did so without the backing of several prominent elected officials. Most notable was Gov. Gary Herbert, but also among those skipping the event were Sen. Mike Lee, Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Mia Love, all of whom denounced their party's nominee after a video surfaced where Trump makes sexually aggressive and hostile comments about women. Though Chaffetz announced Wednesday that he intended to vote for Trump.
Subsequently, numerous women, including a former Miss Utah, Temple Taggart McDowell, said Trump behaved in a sexually aggressive manner toward them, touching or kissing them against their wishes.
As Pence called for Republicans in Utah to unite behind Trump, some in the audience vented their disdain, shouting "Loser governor! Where are you, Herbert?" and "Mike Lee sucks!"
Instead, Pence was joined on stage by Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, a Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University, who acknowledged some of the things Trump said were "indefensible," but urged Utah voters to take a long-term perspective.
"We're electing a president of the United States, we're not electing a bishop of the United States," Labrador told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview. "Donald Trump is a flawed man, no question about it. … But the reality is, are you worried about what he said, or are you worried about what Hillary Clinton will do to the United States for the next 40 to 60 years?"
Labrador blamed the media both for tearing down Trump, but also for building up McMullin, a former CIA operative and congressional staffer, who he said was unknown just a few months ago and is completely unqualified to be president. He argued the media did the same thing in attacking Mitt Romney four years ago, and John McCain before that.
"I hope the people of Utah don't fall for that. They haven't fallen for it in the past and I believe they're smarter than that and on Election Day they will prove that," he said.
Repeated polls have shown the state is very much up for grabs, with some showing Trump with a slight lead, one showing McMullin in front, but overall painting a picture of a state that may not go to the Republican nominee for the first time since Lyndon Johnson won Utah in 1964.
The latest Utah poll, released Wednesday by Heat Street and Rasmussen Reports, found Trump leading with 32 percent, McMullin at 29 percent, and Clinton at 28 percent among likely voters.
Pence told the audience this election is far from over and his side feels momentum building across the country although new polls released nationally and in key battleground states showed the Trump team trailing Clinton.
"This air of inevitability, let me tell you what, Utah: Don't buy it," Pence said. "This race is on. We're all knotted up in Utah… She may have the media and the money and the special interests on her side, but Donald Trump and I … we've got a vast majority of Americans who are saying, 'Enough is enough.'"
Brett Tatton, of West Jordan, brought his two sons to the Trump rally, including Braydon, who will be voting in his first election.
"I agree with everything [Pence] says. A lot has to change," said Braydon Tatton.
His father said he hopes "everyone comes to their senses" and realizes that it is a race between Trump and Clinton and "you're throwing your vote away if you vote for someone else."
"I'm LDS, but unfortunately, we're kind of 'sheeple' here in Utah and we're voting for [McMullin] because he's Mormon," said Brett Tatton. "He's come in late. If he wanted to do it, come in a year ago and pay your dues, but don't come in now and try to turn it upside down."
Democrats countered Pence's visit with a press conference where three Republicans including two former state legislators said they will vote for Clinton over Trump.
"Today I've come to the point of doing something I've never done before: I will vote for the Democrat," said former state Rep. Bryson Garbett, owner of one of the state's largest homebuilding companies. "I will not be voting for Donald Trump. He is not qualified to be president."
Emily Ellsworth, who was a congressional staffer for both Reps. Chaffetz and Chris Stewart and a former GOP official, said she is a "nasty Republican woman," who will vote for Clinton, the first time she has broken ranks with the Republican Party.
"For the good of the country and the good of the Supreme Court, I'm no longer taking this election for granted," said Ellsworth. "I'm openly supporting Hillary Clinton as a Republican woman because I understand the need for clear, calculated leadership… Mike Pence is not the antidote to a diseased ticket."
And former state Rep. Sheryl Allen said Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and the issues surrounding the fall of the U.S. compound in Benghazi are legitimate, but her record and policy proposals still set her apart.
Trump will add to the national debt, his wall along the Mexican border is unaffordable, he is too cozy with Russian president Vladimir Putin and he won't confront climate change the way Clinton will, Allen said. Clinton also emphasizes the value of education and cares about families, she said.
Meantime, signs popped up around Salt Lake City that said "Herbert is Trump," an attempt to tie the governor to the unpopular GOP candidate. Herbert's opponent, Democrat Mike Weinholtz, said his campaign had nothing to do with the signs and was taking to social media to try to find out who was responsible. Likewise, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said the party had nothing to do with the signs, either.
Democrats are calling in their own reinforcements as the election winds down. Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazille is scheduled to headline a rally at the City-County Building in downtown Salt Lake City at 4 p.m. Thursday, part of a national effort targeting battleground states.
And Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, penned an editorial in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Deseret News espousing the value of missionary work in a bid to connect with the predominant Mormon voting bloc.
There were strong LDS overtones to the comments at Wednesday's rally with Pence as well, starting with an opening prayer offered by former LDS General Relief Society President Julie Beck and continuing with Layne Bangerter, Trump's state director in Idaho who said he was an LDS Bishop and told Trump personally that he viewed the nominee as the Apostle Paul and, like Paul on the road to Damascus, "Jesus said, 'He's going to the White House to do my work.' "