Utah is participating in Super Tuesday, when the largest number of states will hold presidential primaries or caucuses and more than a third of all available delegates will be assigned for both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and his wife Abby Cox greet President Joe Biden after he arrives at Roland R. Wright International Guard Base, Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Aug. 9, 2023 | Photo by Alex Brandon, The Associated Press

President Joe Biden is the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination with none of his primary challengers likely to make headway.

Former President Donald Trump is leading former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for the Republican nomination. Though Haley defeated Trump in Washington, D.C.’s GOP primary on Sunday, she still faces a steep uphill battle against Trump, who is favored to win Super Tuesday’s races.

It remains to be seen how much momentum former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has gained in Utah. Voters in the red state, home to the highest concentration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chose Trump in the last two presidential elections, but not without early hesitancy over Trump’s brash rhetoric.

In the 2016 general election, Trump won Utah with only 45% of the vote,  while Hillary Clinton got 27% and third-party candidate Evan McMullin got 21%. In 2020, Trump won with a stronger majority in conservative Utah, with 58% to Biden’s nearly 38%.

Utah, however, is one state where Haley hopes to make inroads. Last week, the presidential longshot held a rally in the Beehive State, where she urged Utah Republicans to reclaim their party and stabilize the country.

In Utah rally, Nikki Haley calls to stop shift in Republican party

Some prominent Utahns have backed Haley. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson along with Utah first lady Abby Cox endorsed Haley in January. Meanwhile, dozens of other GOP lawmakers including Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz have endorsed Trump.

Super Tuesday is crucial for how the rest of the 2024 presidential race will shape up. Here’s what you need to know about how Tuesday’s elections will play out in Utah.

Super Tuesday: What you need to know

Both the Republican and Democratic parties will hold caucus meetings Tuesday night, while the Utah GOP will also hold a presidential preference poll.

Five Democrats got a spot on Utah’s Democratic primary ballot: Biden, Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips; Gabriel Cornejo of Las Vegas; Frankie Lozada of New York; and author Marianne Williamson, who dropped out last month then three weeks later announced she’s unsuspending her campaign.  

L-R: In this file photo, then President-elect Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, and Republican presidential candidate and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks at a rally prior to the Iowa presidential primary, Iowa, Jan, 15, 2024 | | Trump photo by  Andrew Harnik, The Associated Press, Haley photo courtesy of the Nikki Haley campaign / YouTube, St. George News

Three Republicans are left standing on the Utah GOP presidential preference ballot: Trump, Haley and Ryan Binkley, a Texas pastor and businessman, though he suspended his campaign last week and endorsed Trump.

The Utah Democratic Party will hold an open presidential primary election, with by-mail ballots automatically sent to registered Democratic voters. Those who aren’t registered Democrats can still vote in the Democratic primary, but if they didn’t already request a ballot they can still vote by attending a polling location before polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Democratic primary votes will be posted on vote.utah.gov.

It’s a different process for Republicans. The Utah GOP opted to conduct its own presidential preference poll during caucus night, when state and county delegates as well as precinct leaders will also be elected.

The Utah GOP’s presidential preference poll is only open to registered Republicans, though the party is allowing same-day voter registration at caucuses for unaffiliated voters. Those who are affiliated with another party can’t participate under state law, which closed voter affiliation changes after Jan. 9.  

Republicans who want to participate can pre-register on the party’s website, utgop.org. There, Republicans can find neighborhood caucus locations. Qualifying voters who are overseas or out of the state can request an absentee ballot, which needs to be dropped off in person by a neighbor, family member or precinct host on their behalf along with a photocopy of their valid government-issued ID.

Registration will begin at 6 p.m., and caucuses begin at 7 p.m. Affiliated Republicans are encouraged to arrive at caucus meetings by 6:30 p.m.

Caucus is scheduled to end no earlier than 8 p.m., at which point presidential absentee ballots will be counted at the same time as in-person ballots.

The Utah Republican Party will announce the results, potentially later Tuesday night after 9 p.m., but it depends on how quickly tallies shape up, according to Utah GOP Chair Robert Axson.

In this file photo, caucus attendees line up inside Dixie High School to learn which rooms their precinct meeting is being held in, St. George, Utah, March 20, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

What if Haley pulls off the unexpected?

So far, it’s largely anticipated that Biden will win the national Democratic nomination, and Trump will win the Republican nomination. The same is expected in Utah. Biden has 206 delegates in the Democratic primary. Trump has already secured 244 delegates, and while there are not enough delegates available for him on Super Tuesday to clinch the GOP nomination, he’s expected to make significant headway toward the 1,215 delegate threshold, the Washington Post reported. Haley, as of Monday, had 43 delegates.

Utah has 40 delegates up for grabs.

Utah Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Lewis said she expects Utah Democrats to rally around the sitting president.

As for Republicans, Trump is the clear front-runner while Haley is considered an underdog. Even though Haley visited Utah recently — and Trump has yet to do so this year — Trump continues to have a loyal following here.

Tuesday’s caucus meetings will highlight how much momentum, if any, Haley has gained in conservative Utah.

“Momentum definitely matters,” Axson said. While Trump is the favorite, “There’s always an opportunity for unexpected outcomes to occur,” he said, and if Haley pulls off a longshot win, that would highlight an appetite for change in red Utah.

Axson said many of Trump’s supporters in Utah “feel that he has a proven track record of having gone back and disrupted the status quo in Washington, D.C.”

For Haley, her supporters see “an opportunity for a new chapter,” Axson said. The idea that the 2024 election will be similar or identical to 2020 “is not as appealing to them, and they’d like to see a new nominee that gives us a new opportunity to talk about different things,” he said.

The outcome of the primary is “secondary, in my mind, to the importance of all of us expressing our own opinions and perspectives,” Axson added, encouraging Utahns to engage in the election process. He said each candidate, even if they fall short in the primary, shapes the races in one way or another.

“You know, Ron DeSantis definitely left his mark on the race, as did Vivek Ramaswamy and others,” Axson said. “Their chance of articulating their vision and their priorities continues to reverberate.”

“My hope,” he added, “is that it will continue to benefit the Republican presidential administration after the election and create an opportunity for different American priorities to take center stage … and continue to be part of the public discourse for years to come.”

To Lewis, if Trump wins as expected, that would be good news for Democrats, given Biden already beat Trump in 2020. But if many Utahns want Haley and buck national trends, she said that could signal conflict within the GOP.

“If they’re voting against the front-runner,” Lewis said, “that might say something about the election.”

by KATIE McKELLAR, Utah News Dispatch

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