Donald Trump

Mike Crapo Withdraws Trump Endorsement After Mike Lee Calls on the Nominee to 'Step Aside' and Jeff Flake Says 'America Deserves Far Better' (UPDATED)

Elected Mormons lead the GOP charge against the Republican presidential nominee, while Gary Johnson redoubles focus on a defecting Utah.


Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), has just withdrawn his endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Crapo, one of five Republican Mormons in the U.S. Senate, made his announcement the morning after two of the others, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), took to social media to their disgust with Trump's "grab-them-by-the-pussy" tape. First there was Flake, on Twitter:

Then Lee, after Trump released his grumpy video apology, made this video on Facebook:

Lee's call for Trump to step aside capped a dramatic evening of defections for Utah Republicans. Gov. Gary Herbert pinned this Tweet to the top of his feed:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Orem), who as chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee has been no friend to Hillary Clinton, was all over television last night repeating the same two-word withdrawal of his prior Trump endorsement: "I'm out."

Also pulling his support was Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Salt Lake City): "I'm incredibly disappointed in our party's candidate. And unlike the Democrats who have proven completely unwilling to hold secretary Clinton accountable for her illegal activities that endangered our national security, I am willing to hold Mr. Trump accountable. I am therefore calling for him to step aside and to allow Mike Pence to lead our party."

Mia Love (R-Salt Lake City), a rising GOP star who has pointedly refused to endorse Trump, called the video "disappointing and disgusting." Former Utah governor and 2012 presidential aspirant Jon Huntsman, who had previously endorsed Trump, called on the Republican nominee to drop out. Other elected Mormon Republicans to blast (though not quite renounce) Trump in the wake of the video include Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Nevada). UPDATE: Hardy, today: ""I will no longer support the guy at the head of the ticket."

Mormon distaste for Donald Trump is a well-observed phenomenon; I took a stab at the topic six weeks ago, and have written previously on the reticence of constitutional conservatives Flake and Lee (including a Republican National Convention interview with the latter). And as I mentioned in a post yesterday about Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson beating the major-party point spread in 18 states, heavily Mormon Utah has featured by far the biggest narrowing of the 2012 partisan gap of any state this year.

Mitt Romney won Utah by 48 percentage points four years ago, within range of George W. Bush's 46 (2004) and 41 (2000), plus Ronald Reagan's 50 (1984) and 52 (1980). This year, FiveThirtyEight has Trump's lead at just 18 percentage points, 52.7 percent to Clinton's 43.5, with Johnson at a strong 10.7. The last time the state was remotely this close was during Ross Perot's runs at the presidency (he came in second there in 1992).

But I would bet a stack of Book of Mormon tickets that Donald Trump won't get anywhere near 50 percent of the vote in Utah. Why? Because it's damn near impossible to find a Utah poll in which the Republican gets even 40 percent of the vote when there are more than two names on the ballot, let alone four (such as Brigham Young University grad Evan McMullin) or five (Jill Stein). Here are the three most recent state polls with four or more names on the ballot ("DC" = Darrell Castle, "OT" is other, and "UN" undecided):

DT 34% HC 25% GJ 13% EM 12% JS 1% OT 8% UN 8% (Sept. 12-19 Tribune-Hinckley)

DT 39% HC 24% GJ 13% EM 12% JS 0% DC 2% OT 6% UN 7% (Sept. 1-9 Tribune-Hinckley)

DT 39% HC 24% GJ 12% EM 9% JS 1% DC 2% UN 14% (Aug. 19-21 PPP)

Even Google Consumer Surveys, which only include three candidates, haven't registered Trump above 35 percent since August. And all campaign long, Utah has led the country in Undecideds and Others.

The Gary Johnson campaign, which is headquartered in Utah, sent an email to supporters last night saying, "If we win critical states like New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Utah, we can stop [Trump or Clinton] from getting to the critical 270 electoral votes that either of them needs to win the election….We will be publicizing our winning strategy soon."

And in a Facebook post last night, the former New Mexico governor said:

I'm shocked by these revelations about Donald Trump, but is anyone really surprised? It is just sad and embarrassing that a man who is now the nominee of a major party for President could display such a disgusting attitude toward women. America deserves better. Women deserve better, and our daughters deserve better.

Tonight, millions of Republicans are facing a moment of truth. As a former Republican Governor, I don't envy them.

According to the Pew Research Center, the states with the highest percentage of Mormons are Utah (55 percent), then Idaho (19), Wyoming (9), Arizona and Alaska (5), then Nevada and Oregon and Montana (4). Montana, Alaska, and Wyoming were the second, third, and fourth-best states for Johnson in 2012, respectively. Arizona and Nevada are ranked second and third, respectively, on the list of states where the Libertarian is exceeding the margin between the leading two presidential candidates. As the preference cascade, first of Mormon Republicans, then some of the rest, continues to wash over the election, you can be damned sure that the Libertarian Party, as well as McMullin, will be targeting the Mormon-heavy interior West.