SALT LAKE CITY — Donald Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidential race, is scheduled to make a campaign stop in Salt Lake City early Friday evening.
The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Infinity Event Center, 26 E. 600 South, a source told the Deseret News.
That means of the five main presidential candidates, all but Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are scheduled to make Utah appearances in advance of Tuesday's presidential preference caucuses.
Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to hold a rally Friday at This Is The Place Heritage Park, and the other Republicans still in the race, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, also have events in Utah.
Trump had not been expected to campaign in Utah after he announced he wouldn't participate in the Republican National Committee's presidential debate in Salt Lake City on Monday. The debate was canceled Wednesday after Kasich also pulled out.
Don Peay, an organizer of Trump for President-Utah, said the campaign's addition of a Salt Lake stop shows that Utah voters are important to the billionaire businessman and reality TV star.
"That's what I think is not right or fair, saying that he doesn't care about Utah," Peay said. He said he expects Trump's appearance to change minds about him "for the positive" because many Utahns only know his media persona.
Trump is expected to arrive in his personal jet just before the event and leave immediately after.
"They're just dropping into town entrepreneur-style," Peay said, describing Trump's campaign as being run like his many businesses: "very efficient and cost-conscious."
Jason Perry, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Trump has his work cut out for him with Utah voters. Polls have shown Trump trailing other Republicans.
"If Donald Trump does want to start changing minds, tomorrow night needs to be a rally where he lets Utah voters know he does or he doesn't reflect their values," he said, citing Trump's statements about building border walls and barring Muslims.
"Utahns view themselves as global citizens," Perry said. "We are more interested in reaching out than shutting out. We tend to support candidates that share that approach."
Peay said the Trump gets a big turnout everywhere and Utah will be no different. He said, however, he does not anticipate the sometimes violent confrontations that have surfaced at recent Trump rallies around the country.
He said supporters of other candidates should stick to attending those rallies, rather than trying to disrupt Trump's appearance in Salt Lake City.
"Go play your own game and don't try to ruin someone else's," Peay said.
On Thursday, Kasich received a high-profile endorsement from former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, a top campaign adviser to the GOP's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney. Leavitt said Kasich "has the best opportunity to beat Hillary Clinton."
Leavitt, who said he believes no Republican candidate will be able to secure the nomination before the party's convention in July, said he believes voters in Utah and the rest of the country going forward will be looking more closely at Trump.
"He is a controversial, flamboyant candidate, who has captured the attention of the American body politic. That doesn't mean he'll be the best president," Leavitt said, questioning Trump's temperament to lead the nation.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has yet to endorse in the presidential race. Herbert tweeted Wednesday that he was "disappointed in Trump's decision to ignore Utahns but looks forward to welcoming two conservatives, Cruz and Kasich, to the state."
On Friday, doors are set to open at 12:30 p.m. for the Sanders rally at the Garden Place in the park, 2601 Sunnyside Ave. Participants are urged to use public transportation or carpool as parking will be limited.
Cruz is set to appear at a campaign kickoff event for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on the American Preparatory campus, 11938 Lone Peak Parkway in Draper, at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who has endorsed Cruz, and conservative personality Glenn Beck are also expected to attend the Lee event. A rally for Cruz is then expected to be held in Provo on Saturday afternoon.
Kasich has three town hall meetings scheduled in Utah on Friday: at Utah Valley University's Grande Ballroom in the Sorensen Student Center at noon; at the U.'s University Guest House at Fort Douglas at 3:30 p.m.; and at Davis High School at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, Kasich will hold a 4 p.m. event in the Dixie Convention Center in St. George.52 comments on this story
Utah is holding Republican and Democratic presidential preference elections at neighborhood party caucus meetings Tuesday evening in place of the state's tradition presidential primary.
GOP voters who registered with the party by midnight Thursday will also be able to vote online Tuesday. More information about the elections is available at utah.gop and utahdemocrats.org.
In addition to Utah's caucuses, elections will also be held Tuesday for Democrats in Idaho and for both Republicans and Democrats in Arizona.