Some high-profile moderate Republicans are seeking to recruit a challenger for Rep. Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart 11 has learned a group of prominent Utah Republicans are actively recruiting a primary challenger for Rep. Chris Stewart in the 2020 election.

A source with knowledge of the efforts tells that the impetus behind the push to find a challenger for Stewart lies with his increasingly vocal defense of President Donald Trump.

“Polling shows that Stewart has low approval and poor name ID among voters in his district, and while polling indicates that his constituents are moving away from Trump, Stewart has become the president’s chief defender and most prolific apologist,” said the source.

The source tells they have “two or three viable candidates” who are seriously considering going up against Stewart next year, but they admit it is still a “work in progress.”

Polling from and Y2 Analytics shows Trump’s job approval rating is underwater in Stewart’s district. 55% of voters in Utah’s 2nd District disapprove of Trump’s job performance, while 45% approve, leaving him with a net negative approval of –10 points. That number includes 47% of voters who say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump.

Trump carried UT02 with 46% of the vote. Right now, just 42% of voters in Stewart’s district say they are ready to vote to give Trump another term in 2020 according to our polling.

Chris Stewart’s campaign declined comment for this article.

Part of the effort to recruit an intra-party challenger for Stewart involves trying to convince some of the numerous Republicans running for governor to get out of that crowded race and take on Stewart instead. Currently, there are 4 Republicans who have officially announced their bid for the GOP nomination next year: Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton and businessman Jeff Burningham. Four others, including former House Speaker Greg Hughes, Retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, Attorney General Sean Reyes and real estate businessman Thomas Wright are also reportedly considering jumping into that race.

Stewart already has two primary challengers in Mary Burkett and Russell Jensen. 

Another popular rumor making the rounds in Utah has former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullen challenging Stewart next year, either as a Republican primary opponent or running as a third-party candidate in the general election. McMullen grabbed just over 20% of the vote in that district in the 2016 presidential election. McMullin did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.