If it’s Lee vs. McMullin, it won’t be a traditional Utah race, says political insider

Jun 10, 2022, 4:15 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 9:31 am
FILE - This Aug. 10, 2016, file photo, Evan McMullin speaks during an interview in Salt Lake City. ...
FILE - This Aug. 10, 2016, file photo, Evan McMullin speaks during an interview in Salt Lake City. McMullin, a former independent presidential candidate, is challenging Republican Sen. Mike Lee. Photo credit: Weston Kenney, The Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY —  If Sen. Mike Lee emerges victorious from the Republican primary to face independent candidate Evan McMullin in the general election, it could be a close race, a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll* shows:

The poll asked, “If the general election were held today, and the following individuals were the candidates for U.S. Senate, who would you vote for?” The answers looked like this:

  • Republican Mike Lee: 41%
  • Independent Evan McMullin: 37%
  • Don’t know: 19%
  • Other: 4%

McMullin is in the race because a majority of delegates in the Utah Democratic Party decided on April 23 not to put forth a Democratic candidate to face off against Lee. Instead, they decided to back McMullin.

Lee vs. McMullin would not be a traditional Utah race

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, weighed in on what is behind the polling. He joined Debbie Dujanovic and guest host Scott Simpson.

If the general election comes down to Lee vs. McMullin, Perry said, “There is nothing traditional about what is happening in this race.”

Post-primary focus

“I made this assertion with Debbie earlier in the show that things will change for Evan McMullen after we get through this primary cycle,” Simpson said. “How do you see this changing for him once it is truly a binary choice between these two candidates?”

Perry predicts Lee will prevail in the Republican primary, which is June 28.

“The numbers are showing that when it comes to the Republican primary, Senator Mike Lee is in a really good position, I think,” he said. “Pretty decent likelihood he’s the one that emerges as the Republican candidate.”

Referencing the poll, Debbie asked if the 19% of respondents who answered with “Don’t Know” believe the two candidates are too close together on the same issues.

Could some of these voters go either way when it comes to the general election?

“I think that could be,” Perry said, adding that undecided voters know Lee and are familiar with McMullin as a 2016 presidential candidate.  But they may not know where he lands on policy.

“That 19% [of voters] are going to wait and see,” Perry said, “they’re gonna say, ‘Well, what kind of candidate is Evan McMullen?’ I think they know Mike Lee, but what kind of candidate is Evan McMullin? Is he going to represent both sides or is he going to go back to some of those historical policy positions, which have been Republican?”

What happens if it’s Lee vs. McMullin in November?

The race changes once the general election campaigns begin to rev up, Perry said.

“I really think it’s going to be about fundraising. That’s what’s going to change the second that those two names come [forward] because as we can see, it becomes very close and the sides become very divided.”

* The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from May 24-June 4, 2022 of 810 registered Utah voters, has a margin of error of +/- 3.46 percentage points.



Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  


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If it’s Lee vs. McMullin, it won’t be a traditional Utah race, says political insider