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Utah Senate race: Mike Lee admits Evan McMullin poses threat to re-election

A few weeks before the November 8 vote, Republican Mike Lee, the senior senator from Utah, is now acknowledging a real re-election threat from Evan McMullin, an independent and former Republican of Donald Trump, who has given him the status quo in decades. of the most competitive Senate race.

Lee’s campaign insists it is moving confidently into election day, but there are unmistakable signs of concern in a race that is shaping up to be a referendum on the direction Trump is taking the Republican Party. Huh.

Lee recently sent out fundraising emails with the subject line: “I’m losing.” In an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, Lee begged Mitt Romney, another Republican senator in the state, to “come on board” and support him. and talking to reporters after the debateThe two-term senator said his campaign had previously refrained from saying: “It’s close.”

reliably Republican in Utah, Attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021Lee’s text messages with Mark Meadows, then President Trump’s chief of staff, have emerged as a powerful issue after the House committee investigating the riot.

On the exchange, Lee discussed ways to challenge the 2020 results in the days and weeks following the election. Lee claimed that he was simply doing due diligence and noted that he did not join Congressional Republicans who objected to the results when they were Certified on January 6thRebellion day. Lee has not succumbed to claims of widespread electoral fraud and voting machine manipulation in the 2020 election, which have been repeatedly debunked by audits, court cases, and Trump’s own Justice Department.

Shortly after the text message was released, the Utah Democrats decided to back McMullin instead of nominating a Democrat, aiming not to split the anti-Lee vote. While Lee has tried to classify McMullin as a Democrat, McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as an independent and won Lee’s vote as opposed to Donald Trump, has said that he would run for Senate. If elected, he will not join the caucus of any party.

“I’m not going to Washington to play the party power game,” he said.

Laura Knowlton, a Republican from right-wing Davis County, cites text messages as one of her reasons for voting for McMullin. He is certain that they indicate further involvement from Lee in attempts to reverse the election.

Knowlton doesn’t understand how voters can ignore it. Yet in an election year where many Republicans remain captivated by Trump and claim voting fraud based on his attempt to reverse the 2020 result, she predicts some – including her family – will leave the party to Lee. out of loyalty. “It will be a test,” she said. “Can you excuse what we know about Lee and blindly vote for him because there’s an ‘R’ next to his name?”

McMullin has tried to use the texts to punctuate the reputation that Lee has worked to develop as a doctrinal conservative deeply committed to the Constitution. McMullin has framed him as proof of how Lee’s transformation from a lifelong Trump critic to a loyal supporter leaves him with Utah voters longing for an alternative to the direction Trump has taken the Republican Party. .

McMullin argues that the country’s long-running partisan stalemate and recent threats to democracy are inherent symptoms of a political culture that has veered toward extremes.

He and campaign associates such as Rep. Adam Kizinger, R-Ill. has urged voters to put aside their views on abortion, government spending and other issues so that they can band together against what Trump portrays as existential threats to democracy. And loyal like Lee.

“I’d love to disagree on issues again. We’re going to debate taxes forever. But right now, we’re fighting for the survival of this country,” said Kizinger, one of two Republicans in the House on Jan. 6. The committee applauded the audience at a campaign event for McMullin on Thursday in downtown Salt Lake City, one of Utah’s most liberal-leaning areas.

Lee has tried to focus the race on pocketbook issues such as the cost of living. He’s aiming to appeal to Utah’s Republican majority, making a case about how important it is for the party to retake the Senate, in a debate this past week, he said what he said. His moderate voting record and desire to break was Trump.

The senator said that “seriously entertaining the idea of ​​supporting an opportunistic gadfly backed by the Democratic Party could be an interesting dinner table conversation. But it’s not a typical year.”

Republican voter Bill Lee, who has been a longtime supporter of Lee who is not related to him, said McMullin has been forced to obscure his actual positions on some issues so that the segregation of Republicans, Democrats and independents To put the alliance together they need it.

Bill Lee said, “He’s playing a great game where he’s trying to get enough votes from three different groups to somehow narrow the margin of victory.” “But if he talks too much about where he really stands, he’ll probably alienate one of those groups, so his plan has been to stay as calm as possible.”

Utah is a deeply conservative state, where the political culture borrows heavily from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of the population – including Lee and McMullin – are members. Faith’s support for refugees and the culture that teaches self-restraint often clashes with the direction Trump has taken the GOP.

Members of the faith are lean Republicans, yet polling has shown that Trump enjoys less strong support among them than other prominent GOP politicians.

Trump failed to garner support from a majority of Utah voters in 2016 and Joe Biden lost, but fared better with Utah voters in 2020 than any Democrat since 1964.

Lee’s 2020 remarks compared Trump to Captain Moroni, a holy hero in the Book of Mormon that alienated some members of the faith and is the subject of a recent McMullin attack ad.

Unlike other competitive Senate races, where Republicans have tried to downplay and stifle Democrats’ efforts to make abortion a central issue, both candidates in Utah identify as anti-abortion. McMullin says he is “pro-life” but opposes extreme policies criminalizing women. Lee said in the debate that he was “deeply thrilled” by the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Although abortion is a major issue for her in this election, Jenny Bech, one of the many Democrats who visited McMullin and Kinzinger in Salt Lake City, said she plans to vote for McMullin.

“I think there is a sense of hopelessness among voters,” she said. “I’m a therapist and I can tell you that people are very worried.”

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