SALT LAKE CITY — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was projected to not just win Utah with a big lead over Ohio Gov. John Kasich and GOP front-runner Donald Trump, but win with enough votes to take all of the state's 40 Republican delegates.
The Associated Press called the race for Utah about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
With 13 percent of the vote in after the Utah Republican Party's online balloting ended at 11 p.m., Cruz had 68 percent of the vote; Kasich, 17 percent; and Trump, 15 percent.
Cruz will have to win a majority of the votes to claim all 40 delegates. If he doesn't, the candidates who earn at least 15 percent of the vote share the delegates proportionately.
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans noted that Cruz had support from the 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, Gov. Gary Herbert and others "under the guise of trying to stop Trump, and Trump's own antics here in Utah didn't serve him well."
That combination, Evans said, could mean Cruz ends up winning all of the state's 40 delegates because he ends up with more than half of the votes cast online and in party caucus meetings around the state.
At one of the 50 precinct meetings held at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights, voters made Kasich their top choice with 23 votes, followed by 21 for Cruz and 13 for Trump after hearing from supporters of each candidate.
Evan Christensen told the Sandy area precinct voters crowded into a corner of the school library he was supporting Kasich because "we need a practical guy who can get it done.
He said Cruz is "too polarizing," and "Trump's just wrong on a lot of things," including immigration and trade.
Christensen said he believed Utah voters could block Trump from winning any delegates by "voting for who you really believe is good," despite Romney and others warning a vote for Kasich was a vote for Trump.
Lindsay Rawson told the precinct voters she was supporting Cruz because she saw him as the party's best chance to stop Trump. But Fred Schubert said he supported Trump because the "country needs someone who can be a very strong leader."
Linda Whitmore, who was chosen to lead her first-ever precinct meeting, said she and her husband "love Trump. We love Cruz, too, but we think Trump can actually make something happen in Utah." Her Sandy-area precinct gave 10 votes to Cruz, eight votes to Trump and two to Kasich.
At Bingham High School in South Jordan, Stephen and Carolyn Newman made a two-block trek from where they found parking to cast their ballots, even though they said they weren’t thrilled about any of the three Republican nominees.
“In our minds there isn’t a real good choice,” Stephen Newman said. “We’re not totally enamored with Trump or Cruz. If Kasich was still in the race seriously, I’d consider voting for him. But it’s a lost cause, I’m afraid.”
David Gartrell and Kayla Burkholder said they’d never been to a caucus before, but they wanted to see what it was like and support Trump.
“We like that he’s not a politician, that he’s not politically correct,” Gartrell said. “I think the conservative party needs to move in a different direction.”
But Annette Hummel, who pushed a stroller and guided her three children, 8-year-old Beth, 5-year-old Isaac, and 3-year-old Julia, said she was going to vote for Cruz.
“I don’t want my kids listening to Trump,” she said. “I don’t like how he talks to people. That’s not what a president should sound like.”
A Deseret News/KSL poll released Monday found Cruz had nearly twice the support of Trump, 42 percent to 21 percent, among Utah Republicans who said they were likely to attend their caucuses.
Kasich trailed behind Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 12 percent to 17 percent, in the Dan Jones & Associates poll, conducted March 8-15, before Rubio lost his home state and dropped out of the race.
Pollster Dan Jones said he believed Trump, already lagging behind the other candidates in Utah, lost support in the state after he questioned whether Romney was really a Mormon during a campaign stop in Salt Lake City.44 comments on this story
Romney not only labeled Trump a fraud and a phony in a recent speech at the University of Utah, he urged Utah voters in a Facebook post to join him in voting for Cruz as the only remaining option to stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination.
Contributing: Katie McKellar