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Poll finds Clinton and Trump tied in Utah as a potential spoiler surges

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied in Utah, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.

The Y2 Analytics poll, published first by Mormon church-owned Deseret News, found both Clinton and Trump at 26% among likely Utah voters, with independent Evan McMullin at 22% and Libertarian Gary Johnson at 14%.

The poll is striking, given Utah is a reliably Republican state that has not voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but comes after Clinton’s campaign has mounted a concerted effort to win the Beehive State by driving a wedge between the Republican nominee and Mormon voters.

McMullin, a Mormon, was a late entrant to the presidential race and has focused on Utah, where he was born. It’s one of the few handful of states where the former CIA employee will be on the ballot in November.

Earlier this year, Clinton’s campaign opened an office in Utah and published an opinion-editorial in a paper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that knocked Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, a nod to Mormon’s history of religious persecution.

Clinton’s efforts — as much about winning Utah as forcing Trump to spend resources in a state he should win — have been helped by lewd comments Trump made about aggressive sexual behavior in 2005 that were published last week in a Washington Post report. Trump’s campaign has been in a spiral since comments came to light and many Mormon leaders and lawmakers fled pulled back their endorsements.

“It is entirely possible that Utah does not vote for Donald Trump,” said Republican State Sen. Daniel Thatcher. When asked to put odds on that scenario, he quickly replied, “50-50.”

Thatcher is undecided between Trump and Clinton, because he find the idea of voting for either of them “morally repugnant.”

“They’re both awful,” he said. “They’re both quite possibly the two worst people in the universe.”

Utah’s top newspapers have also disavowed Trump. The Deseret News urged Trump to drop out earlier this month and on Wednesday, the Salt Lake Tribune endorsed Clinton over Trump, though that publication has trended Democratic in recent years, endorsing President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“Utah Republicans were perceptive enough to reject Trump in their March presidential caucus voting,” the paper wrote, referring to Trump’s third place finish behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the March 22 caucus there. “Were they to support Clinton now, even by the narrowest of pluralities, it would send a strong message to the Republican Party to turn their backs on Trumpism.”

Clinton’s outreach to Mormons is about more than just Utah, too. While Mormons make up 60% of votes in the Beehive State, they also make up sizable numbers in Nevada and Arizona, two other Western states that Clinton is hoping land in her column on November 8.

The Y2 Analytics poll was conducted October 10-11, and used responses from 500 likely Utah voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.