SALT LAKE CITY — The same day that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledged his campaign is "having a tremendous problem in Utah," Gov. Gary Herbert announced he's voting for his party's nominee.
"Utah is a different place," the billionaire businessman told a group of evangelical pastors at an event Thursday in Orlando, Florida. "Is anyone here from Utah? … I didn't think so. We're having a problem."
Trump, who said he's "been given a false narrative," urged the group to "spread the word this will be so great for religion." He said people of faith did not vote for the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, a Mormon.
"Religion didn't get out and vote," Trump said, adding he was not sure why.
Herbert finally made it clear earlier in the day Thursday that he is voting for Trump in November.
"I am voting for Donald Trump," Herbert told reporters at the taping of his monthly news conference on KUED Ch. 7. He said voters who are concerned about his party's nominee should recognize there's a difference between governing and campaigning.
University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless, the academic outreach coordinator at the U.'s Hinckley Institute of Politics, questioned the governor's decision.
"I don't want to use the phrase 'guilt by association,' but when you endorse somebody, you endorse what they stand for," Chambless said. "I wondered why the governor is doing this. If it's, 'My party, right or wrong,' this time his party might be wrong."
A new UtahPolicy.com poll released earlier this week showed Trump leading the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 37 percent to 25 percent, as support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson surged to 16 percent.
Trump has never been popular in Utah, coming in third in the March presidential preference caucus vote behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich with just 14 percent of the Republican vote.
Chambless said Utah voters were turned off when Trump wondered aloud during an appearance in Salt Lake City last March just before the caucus vote whether Romney was really a Mormon after telling the crowd he loved Mormons.
"For him to question Mitt Romney's faith was, I think, over the line in the minds of many Utah voters," he said, noting the same Utahns who voted against Trump have other choices, now including political newcomer Evan McMullin, a BYU graduate.
"What that does is give cover, if you will, for Utah Republican Mormons who almost always vote the Republican ticket," Chambless said, as well as make it more likely Clinton will be the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Utah since 1964.
Romney, Utah's adopted favorite son, has been one of the loudest voices in the Stop Trump movement, labeling Trump a phony and a fraud in a widely covered speech as the U.
Utah voters have questioned Trump's temperament to be the nation's commander in chief in past polls, and some, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have expressed concern about his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
The governor declined to address the latest list of issues being raised about Trump, including his feud with the family of a fallen Muslim solider and his suggestion that Second Amendment supporters could stop Clinton.
"I'm not the apologist for the Trump campaign or any campaign out there other than my own," Herbert said. "Some of the things people like about Mr. Trump are his unvarnished comments."
While "what pops into his head and comes out his mouth is sometimes unfiltered, people find that refreshing," the governor said. "At the same time, that's off-putting to many others."
Herbert suggested that could change with Trump in the White House and said all candidates say things he disagrees with, including Clinton, the former secretary of state.
"I think governing and campaigning are two different things. How you campaign is not necessarily how you're going to govern and vice versa. Again, he's never run for office before, so he doesn't have that traditional way of doing it," he said of Trump.
The key issues in the presidential campaign for Herbert are the nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court the next president will make, as well as states' rights, the governor said, adding that "Trump provides the best opportunity" to address them.
He said he hopes Trump "can make good choices and put good people around him," like his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. "He'll bring some stability," Herbert said, praising one of Trump's first big decisions as the Republican nominee.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon had harsh words for the governor's announcement that he was voting for Trump, calling it, "Unbelievable. Shameful. Appalling."
Corroon said it shows Herbert "prioritizes politics and his own party over what is best for the people of Utah." He said Democrats are siding with Romney, and he's confident Clinton will win Utah.
Also Thursday, the governor spoke about his own re-election bid. Herbert, who has served as governor since 2009, won a hard-fought primary election and now faces Democrat Mike Weinholtz, the chairman of CHG Healthcare.
A new UtahPolicy.com poll released this week gave the governor a 41-point lead over Weinholtz. Late last month, Herbert received a $250,000 campaign contribution from the Republican Governors Association.
"I did run in an expensive primary so that's depleted my resources," the governor said. "I appreciate the fact the Republican Governors Association said, 'Hey, you're back down to having fewer dollars. Let us help you.' I've helped them raise money."
He said it was the first time the association had contributed to one of his races and noted that unlike Weinholtz, who has already loaned his campaign $1 million, he is "not blessed with personal wealth. I can't write out a check for a million or two."