This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Donald Trump lashed out at independent Evan McMullin, calling him "a puppet" who could cost Republicans the election and give liberals the Supreme Court for the next 60 years if he wins in Utah.
The Republican presidential candidate and his running mate Mike Pence never uttered McMullin's name in their joint interview with Fox News' Bret Baier on Saturday. Instead Trump called out Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator who sought to recruit an independent challenger and helped nudge McMullin into the race in August.
"He gets his puppet to go and run in Utah. The guy takes votes away from me," Trump said, before adding, "You know, we're going to win Utah."
Trump later called McMullin "a puppet of a loser."
The latest polls show Trump narrowly ahead of McMullin and Democrat Hillary Clinton, though often only within the margin of error, making Utah the most unexpected swing state of the 2016 campaign. The new Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll has Trump at 32 percent, McMullin at 30 percent and Clinton behind at 24 percent. That poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, has a margin of error of 3.42 percent.
Pence stopped by the state last week as the Republican ticket tries to blunt McMullin's rise in the state. The independent, who is Mormon, a former CIA operative and a former congressional staffer, gained support quickly after the "Access Hollywood" tape from 2005 emerged in early October showing Trump boasting that he could kiss and grope women without asking because he's a star.
McMullin has called Trump a "racist," "misogynist" and an "authoritarian." Trump is now firing back.
"He's going from coffee shop to coffee shop. It's a full-time thing. He can't do anything, but he hurts us in Utah," Trump said. "If the incredible people of Utah, they're incredible people. I know the people of Utah. If they go enough for this character that's running all over the state and we lose the state of Utah, that's devastating, because that means we're probably going to lose the Supreme Court of the United States for 60 years. By that time, it won't matter, because at the end of 60 years, we won't have a country left."
McMullin replied Saturday night on Twitter with a criticism of Trump.
Trump isn't the only one to question McMullin's run. On Oct. 22, Fox Business personality Lou Dobbs tweeted:
The claim inspired a Twitter hashtag "#MormonMafia" that mocked Dobbs.