SALT LAKE CITY — With the election just a week away, supporters of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — as well as third-party hopefuls Evan McMullin and Gary Johnson themselves — were looking for votes in Utah on Tuesday.
More than 100 Trump backers, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and other elected officials, rallied in the Capitol rotunda to tell Republicans to "come home" to their party's presidential nominee rather than get behind McMullin, an independent.
McMullin, a conservative with Utah roots, has led or been statistically tied with Trump in recent polls in a state that has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968.
Clinton, the Democratic nominee, trails both Trump and McMullin in Utah, according to recent polls, and Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, sank from a double-digit showing after McMullin got in the race in August.
"We cannot waste our votes in this election," Hatch said, warning the next president could appoint as many as five justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Donald Trump is no choirboy, but I've got to tell you something: I've noticed a change."
Hatch said Trump has "caught on how important it is that the next president of the United States pull this country out of the stinking mess that it's in" and called the Nov. 8 election "without question the most important" in history.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told the boisterous crowd that he, too, questioned who he was going to vote for in the presidential race.
"The ballot mailed to me sat on my desk for a few days. I looked at it every morning. I looked at it every night. But it is time for Republicans to come home," Stewart said to applause. "The future of our country hangs in the balance."
Trump lost support from some state Republican leaders, including Gov. Gary Herbert, after a 2005 video surfaced of Trump describing how he made sexual advances on women.
Others, including Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Mia Love, both R-Utah, never got behind Trump. And some, like former Utah GOP National Committeewoman Enid Mickelsen, said they flirted with casting a protest vote before settling on Trump.
"We don't have that luxury," Mickelsen said at the rally.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, has stood by Trump since just before the billionaire businessman's distant last-place finish in Utah's presidential preference caucus vote in March.
Flanked by five former Utah Republican House speakers, Hughes said now is not the time for what he called the "shy Trump vote."
A Georgia state senator, Michael Williams, didn't speak at the rally but was in the audience as part of a visit to the state to "shore up" support for Trump as a member of Utah's predominant Mormon faith.
His message to fellow Mormons, Williams said, is that they should look at who Trump really is.
"He's not the sexist, he's not the racist, he's not the misogynist that the media would have you believe," Williams said. "He is a true patriot."
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Clinton's campaign, which has worked to turn Utah blue with frequent surrogate visits and an increased staff in the state, attracted about three dozen Democrats to a rally outside the Salt Lake County Government Center.
Actor Sean Astin urged Utahns to vote for Clinton, although he allowed that McMullin is impressive.
"I really thought, man, a solid third-party would be fantastic in this country. But next Tuesday, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is going to be elected president," he said. "If you don't vote for Hillary Clinton, you're not voting for Hillary Clinton. You'll have to live with that."
Astin, who is known for "Rudy" and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said he has been a Clinton supporter since 1992. He described her as an honorable, decent, hard-working public servant.
Clinton, he said, has experience in government, and Trump does not.
"The presidency of the United States is not something you practice on. It's too important, too complex. You can't be clumsy. People around the world will take advantage of clumsy," Astin said.
At the event, held beneath canopies on the government center lawn during a light rain, Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon called on party faithful to get their ballots in.
"We're outnumbered in this state, as we all know," he said, ticking off a list of close votes Democratic candidates have lost. "So the bottom line is your vote matters."
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At lunchtime, McMullin gathered with a dozen-plus voters at Ruth’s Diner in Emigration Canyon, as reporters from French news agency AFP, Israeli newspaper Haaretz and British newspaper The Times huddled around them.
Over club sandwiches and salads, McMullin fielded questions about his values, his chances of deadlocking the electoral college and his plans after the election.
Later, at a brief news conference, McMullin said he was unruffled by state Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, announcing at the Trump rally he was pulling his endorsement in favor of the GOP nominee.
"'Going home' is not going to Donald Trump,” McMullin said. “It’s remaining committed to the foundational principles that made this country the most powerful and prosperous on Earth.”
He and his running mate, Mindy Finn, plan to spend the final week before the election focused on Utah.
“We have a really good shot of winning this state,” Finn said. “People in Utah rejected Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the primaries, so they are seeking a true conservative.”
David Bybee, 56, said the lunch meeting strengthened his intent to vote for McMullin. A longtime conservative, Bybee was “repulsed” by both major party candidates and saddened as he watched Trump become the Republican nominee.
“It’s not my party anymore, which is kind of sad,” he said.
The Kaysville resident was planning to sit out the election until he heard about McMullin.
“Now we have a place,” Bybee said.
About 100 supporters joined Johnson at the American International School of Utah, where the Libertarian candidate went hard after Clinton and Trump, saying both would lead dysfunctional presidencies.
"There's going to be talk of impeachment starting day one" if Clinton is elected, Johnson claimed, citing the FBI's review of additional emails potentially connected to her case that was resolved earlier this year without charges.
Johnson told his supporters that FBI Director James Comey wouldn't have alerted Congress about potentially pertinent emails in the case "unless there was something underlying all this."
He also referenced a civil case facing Trump in which a woman has sued the GOP nominee, claiming that he raped her when she was 13 years old and threatened her and her family with death if she reported the incident.
"He could be on trial for underage rape (while) taking the oath of office," Johnson told the crowd.
Trump is not facing criminal charges in connection with the lawsuit.
Johnson didn't address the candidacy of McMullin, who has surpassed him as the top third-party choice among Utah voters, according to several polls. However, he did return multiple times to his political experience as a two-term governor of New Mexico and reiterated that he's the only candidate outside of Trump and Clinton to be on the ballot in all 50 states.
Danielle Walker, of Lehi, began the night tentatively leaning toward voting for Trump. But she said Johnson's presentation swayed her.
"(He) made me feel like he was the right candidate. What impressed me the most was that he wanted us to have all our own choices," she said.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Daphne Chen, Ben Lockhart
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