An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning, friends, but especially to Jaylen Brown, who will be named NBA Finals MVP tonight. Go Celtics.

3 things to know

  1. Donald Trump made his first visit to the U.S. Capitol since Jan. 6 on Thursday, and it was as if the insurrection never occurred: Republican House members and senators flocked to his side, offering standing ovations and cheers. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered him a fist bump. Read more here.
  2. President Joe Biden signed a 10-year security agreement with Ukraine while attending the G7 summit in Italy on Thursday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for its support, but wondered aloud “how long the unity will last,” likely alluding to Trump’s potential return to the White House. Read more here.
  3. Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Utah this month. Her tentative schedule includes a fundraiser and a public event. It will be her first visit to the state since 2020, when she debated Mike Pence at the University of Utah. Read more here.

The Big Idea

“I don’t like him, but I love his policies”

On Wednesday, we published our first Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll of Utah voters in several months. The results, at least at the top of the ticket, were largely unsurprising: Trump leads big, while Biden flounders.

Polls are great at capturing a snapshot of public opinion at a specific moment in time. But polls are quite bad at portraying nuance. Why do voters feel the way they do? Are the 49% of Utahns who support Trump all MAGA loyalists, or are there any ideological conservatives who just don’t see another option?

This week, I tried to find out. On Tuesday, I sat in on a focus group hosted by Sarah Longwell, a political strategist and publisher of The Bulwark. The nine participants all met certain criteria: they live in Utah, they voted for Trump in 2020, and they plan to vote this year.

Over 90 minutes, the moderator asked them about both local and national issues. There was a fair amount of disagreement — some said they like Mitt Romney, some expressed disgust; some said they backed Nikki Haley in the primary, while others backed Trump. But when the moderator asked a simple question about how things are going in the country, there was little variation.

My notes:

“It’s crap, to tell you the truth.”

“Embarrassing and scary.”

“I think it’s a dumpster fire.”

The sentiment continued as other topics were brought up: the economy, immigration, the disintegration of the family. Several of the participants blamed Biden, and three of them drew contrasts to their lives during the Trump administration.

Even so, when the moderator asked who was glad that Trump won the Republican nomination, only three of nine hands went up.

The skeptics all seemed to have the same view: They liked Trump’s policies, but they don’t like his persona. When given the choice between Trump or Biden, though, they all side with Trump.

Olivia, a young mother, said Trump is “a very divisive person.”

“He’s not really a very good person, and can kind of be a little unpredictable and out of control,” she said. “But I definitely prefer him over Biden.”

Ron, a retired man, said he hoped the nominee would be someone “without all the baggage.” He was an early Ron DeSantis supporter.

“But I would vote for (Trump) any day over Biden,” he added. “I wish it was someone else running with his policies.”

Brittany, a stay-at-home mother who recently moved from California, said she wishes he “would just shut up. ... It’s off-putting even to me, who voted for you.”

When asked if Trump’s conviction — becoming the first former U.S. president ever convicted of a crime — changed how they view Trump, eight of nine said it made no difference. Only Vincent, a college student, said it made him less supportive. “I just worry about our image as a country to the world, you know?” he said. “It feels difficult having a president who’s had felony charges, whether that be a felony that was should have been a felony or not, I think that’s kind of difficult.”

In the end, all nine participants said they would be backing Trump again in 2024, just as they did in 2020. “Look at where Biden has brought us in the last four years,” Ron said. “We need Trump in there.”

“At this point, like, it’s too dangerous not to vote Trump, because we cannot have four more years of Biden,” Brittany added. “Like, we cannot. That’s scary.”

Weekend reads

Biden has relied heavily on Mexico to help carry out the U.S.’ border security and immigration policies. The latest tactic? Deterring migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border by flying them to southern Mexico and forcing them to try the cross-country trek again. Some migrants have been shipped south, before trying the journey again, as many as six times. Mexico’s tactic to cut immigration to the US: wear out migrants (Megan Janetsky and Felix Marquez)

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Along the other border, Canada is bracing for a U.S. civil war — albeit only procedurally. Deep in a report compiled by an in-house Canadian government think tank, the possibility of civil war south of the border is listed among the things the Canadian government should prepare for. “U.S. ideological divisions, democratic erosion, and domestic unrest escalate, plunging the country into civil war,” the report presents as a possibility. Canada’s Big Worry: A U.S. Civil War (Alexander Burns, Politico)

Is Trump more than a candidate? That’s the argument here — that Trump has become a symbol to his followers, making him much more influential, and perhaps more durable, than most politicians. Trump the Totem (Robert P. Jones, Religion Dispatches)

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.

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