Utah Democrats favor Hillary Clinton while independent voters lean toward Bernie Sanders.
Because of the Utah Democratic Party’s open process for voting on a presidential nominee, it may give Sanders a puncher’s chance in Utah – which might have a bigger impact down the line.
Let’s break down the math.
When Democrats hold their presidential preference poll on March 22 of next year, there’s a very good chance the Democratic nominee won’t yet be decided.
27 states will vote for the Democratic nominee ahead of Utah. That’s a big change from the past when Utah was at the end of the line with the June primary. By that time, Utah’s vote was simply a formality because everything had already been decided.
Here’s who will vote before Utah:
February 1 – Iowa
February 9 – New Hampshire
February 20 – Nevada
February 27 – South Carolina
March 1 – Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
March 5 – Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska
March 6 – Maine, Puerto Rico
March 8 – Michigan, Mississippi
March 15 – Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio
March 22 – Arizona, Idaho, Utah
There are some big states in there, but none of the huge delegate-rich prizes – New York, Texas, California.
In fact, the number of delegates awarded nationally won’t even cross the halfway point until Utah votes in March according to Josh Putnam at Frontloading HQ.
But, you may ask, why does that matter? Monday’s poll showed a majority of Utah Democrats favor Hillary Clinton.
That’s true, but it won’t be just Democrats casting on March 22. The Utah Democratic presidential preference vote is open to ALL registered voters in the state.
54% of Utah Democrats would vote for Clinton, but only 15% of independents would do so. On the other hand, 34% of Democrats and 36% of independents would support Sanders. Couple those two, and Sanders might have a chance if he can rally independents to vote for him on the 22nd.
Another factor to consider. Utah’s delegates are awarded proportionally, not “winner take all.”
Utah will hand out 25 delegates in March. It’s unlikely that Clinton will win all of them. If Sanders could pull something close to a 13-12 split, or even win a majority, it would certainly be a boost to his campaign.
The only way Utah doesn’t have a hand in picking the Democratic nominee is if Clinton somehow scores a knockout punch on Sanders in the early states – something that seems extremely unlikely.
Here’s a big hurdle for Sanders. Most of his support in Utah seems to lie with millennial voters.
– Utahns between the age of 18-24 favor Sanders over Clinton by a 54-3% margin.
– Those between 25 and 34 pick Sanders 40-13%
– Sanders has a slight edge among Utahns between 35-44 at 23-18%.
Older Utahns still favor Sanders, but not by much. The 54-54-year-old cohort breaks toward Sanders 28-16% while those between 55 and 64 lean toward Sanders 21-18%. Utahns 65 and older pick Clinton 29-16%.
To be fair, not all of those will vote in the Democratic primary – but Sanders clearly has an advantage among younger voters. He will have to get them to participate in the Democratic election if he is going to make some noise in Utah. And that means getting millennial voters to attend the neighborhood caucus meetings – which is a crapshoot.
That’s why Clinton is still the odds-on favorite to win a majority of Utah’s delegates in March because older Utahns and Democrats are most likely to attend those caucus meetings and cast a ballot for Clinton.