Utah is throwing a wrench into Donald Trump’s plans to clinch the presidential nomination.
The Republican frontrunner won Arizona’s primary Tuesday (March 22) night, a winner-take-all state with 58 delegates, but he was dealt a major blow in Utah where his rival Ted Cruz is the projected winner, taking the state’s 40 delegates. With the Utah result, Trump has 739 delegates compared with Cruz’s 465.
Trump’s defeat in Utah is not surprising. Most polls showed Ted Cruz with a substantive lead over the billionaire, and one local poll suggested Utah, a state that’s voted Republican for the past 50 years, would rather vote for a Democrat than Trump.
He is wildly unpopular among Mormons, who constitute more than 60% of the state’s population. Trump also lost in Wyoming and Idaho, the second and third state with the highest concentration of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Mormon leaders, including former presidential candidate Mitt Romney as well as the current and former governors of the state, have come out against Trump and endorsed Ted Cruz or John Kasich instead.
There are several reasons for their vocal disapproval, as McCay Coppins explains at Buzzfeed. For one, as advocates of “compassionate” immigration reform, or allowing more people into the country rather than less, Mormons are not too keen on Trump’s radical anti-immigration ideas.
Mormons also don’t fit the mold of the typical Trump supporter. Trump is strongly supported by people without college education and Christians who attend services infrequently. Mormons, meanwhile, are more likely to be better educated and attend church on a weekly basis.
Mormons also disagree with Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric since religious freedom is one of the tenets of the faith, voiced by its founder, Joseph Smith. His signature brash style also doesn’t help. “His blatant religious illiteracy, his penchant for onstage cursing, his habit of flinging crude insults at women, his less-than-virtuous personal life and widely chronicled marital failures—all of this is anathema to the wholesome, family-first lifestyle that Mormonism promotes,” writes Coppins.
It’s not for lack of trying. Trump has tried to appeal to Mormon voters. In the days leading up to the Utah caucus, Trump tried attacking Cruz by calling him a liar. In a tweet, he wrote: “Mormons don’t like LIARS!”
He also tried to recover from Romney’s attacks by questioning his religious zeal—a move that might have backfired. “Do I love the Mormons? I have many friends that live in Salt Lake City—and by the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them,” Trump said at a recent rally. “Are you sure he’s a Mormon? Are we sure?” He later backtracked and said that he was only joking.