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Donald Trump has divided the Republican Party, especially in Utah, so much so that the traditionally Republican state suddenly seems like it could be a tossup. Republican presidential candidates have won Utah in every election since 1968. From member station KUER in Salt Lake City, Terry Gildea has more.
TERRY GILDEA, BYLINE: Utah Republicans had only reluctantly supported Donald Trump, but the video of Trump bragging about groping women was the final straw. Within hours, Governor Gary Herbert revoked his support for Trump over Twitter while other prominent Republicans called on Trump to exit the race. During a debate on Monday, Congresswoman Mia Love echoed the dilemma that many Republican voters in Utah feel.
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MIA LOVE: Hillary Clinton doesn't represent my values. Donald Trump doesn't represent my values. I have been looking into the other candidates, and you know, again this is - I have not closed the door on the other candidates.
GILDEA: The Deseret News, a newspaper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hasn't weighed in on a presidential race since 1936. Over the weekend they published an editorial calling for Trump to drop out.
PAUL EDWARDS: What we saw in Mr. Trump's very casual way of just discarding other human beings just has us deeply concerned that this is a pattern of objectifying not just women but all people for his purposes.
GILDEA: Paul Edwards is the paper's editor and publisher. He says it was appropriate to stand up for the values of faith and family that the paper espouses.
EDWARDS: It's fair to say that this is actually quite consistent with the same kind of bold stance that we took being the first paper that we know of in the country to call for the resignation of Bill Clinton back in 1998 when there were substantiated allegations about serious moral misconduct within the White House.
GILDEA: A poll released on Wednesday suggests that Trump's support in Utah is collapsing among Mormon voters. Quin Monson is a political scientist and founding partner of Y2 Analytics, the firm that released the data.
QUIN MONSON: A lot of Mormon voters viewed Donald Trump unfavorably given all of the previous information that they had. And this just proved to be a tipping point where they finally said, I can no longer vote for this man.
GILDEA: Trump and Clinton are in an even tie, with each claiming just 26 percent support. Sensing an opportunity, Hillary Clinton has opened a campaign office in Salt Lake City and just released a Mormons for Hillary video. Monson says he didn't expect to see these numbers in one of the most reliably Republican states in the country.
MONSON: I think what happens now is that the race in Utah becomes quite fluid, where Hillary Clinton will gain a little bit of steam, but the support is not going to flee Trump to Hillary Clinton necessarily.
GILDEA: Meanwhile, third party candidate Evan McMullin, himself a practicing Mormon, has surged up to 22 percent. Abandoning Trump has been difficult for lifelong Republicans such as Aimee Winder Newton who holds a seat on the Salt Lake County Council. Trump wasn't her first choice in the Republican field, but she went to the Republican convention as a delegate and decided to give Trump a chance.
AIMEE WINDER NEWTON: I'm willing to look at giving my vote to this man, and I want to see what happens.
GILDEA: But as she has watched Trump campaign, it became harder and harder to support him. And the video made it impossible.
NEWTON: My faith is very important to me in how I operate on a day-to-day basis. We're told that the first commandment is to love God, but the second is to love our fellow men. And I think that's something that has been something I've really grappled with in looking at our presidential nominees because I feel like how we treat other people is so important.
GILDEA: Newton says she felt a burden lifted from her when she decided not to vote for Donald Trump. She knows that Hillary Clinton may win the White House, and she's accepted that. Now Newton says she has a rare opportunity to choose a third party candidate and actually vote her conscience. For NPR News, I'm Terry Gildea in Salt Lake City.
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