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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has never had an especially easy time in the state of Utah.
Utah is a deep red state—it hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since President Lyndon Johnson beat Sen. Barry Goldwater in 1964. Even so, in this election cycle, there's a chance the state's six electoral votes won't go the GOP nominee.
A poll released on Wednesday by Emerson Polling showed independent candidate Evan McMullin leading Trump by a margin of 31 percent to 27 percent. Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in third with 24 percent, and Libertarian Gary Johnson is in fourth with 5 percent.A 40-year-old Provo, Utah, native, McMullin has deep roots in the state—graduating from Brigham Young University and serving as a Mormon missionary in Brazil. He's worked as a CIA agent, an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, an adviser on House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the policy director for the House Republican Conference.
McMullin announced his candidacy in August as a reaction to the desire among many Republicans dissatisfied with Trump ascendancy to the position of the party's standard bearer. His late entry into the race resulted in McMullin only appearing on the ballot in 11 states: Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Kentucky, Virginia, and South Carolina. He has been confirmed as a write-in candidate in 30 more states.
Other polls have put McMullin mounting a serious challenge to Trump in the wake of the release of an 11-year old tape showing Trump bragging about how his wealth and fame allow him to sexually assault women with impunity and the subsequent allegations from a litany of women who charge Trump's statements on the tape were more than just, as he described them, “locker room talk.” However, this poll is the first to actually show McMullin in the lead.
If McMullin were to win Utah, he would be the first independent candidate to win any state's electoral votes since Gov. George Wallace took five states in the deep south in the 1968 presidential election.