While the Democratic donnybrook will be front and center during Utah’s presidential primary on Super Tuesday, Beehive State Republicans will also be casting ballots that day. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is challenging President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination next year.
The Utah GOP has informed the Utah Elections Office they intend to participate in the primary election following a vote by the party’s State Central Committee authorizing the move.
Trump has struggled to gain support in Utah. He finished in third place in the 2016 GOP primary behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Trump did win Utah’s six electoral votes in 2016, but only got 45.5% of the vote. Since that time, polling has shown his approval rating in Utah hovering below 50%.
Weld, who served as governor of Massachusetts for two terms, was the 2016 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian party.
Utah Republican Party Chair Derek Brown tells UtahPolicy.com that neither Weld or Trump have official campaign organizations in Utah, but he expects that to change soon.
An incumbent president has not faced a serious primary challenger since 1992 when Pat Buchannan ran against President George H.W. Bush for the Republican nomination. Buchannan never defeated Bush in any of the primary contests, but Bush lost his re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Kennedy severely damaged Carter’s re-election effort, winning 12 states during the primary contest to Carter’s 29. Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in the general election that year.