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Campaign says Bloomberg’s presidential bid benefiting from Romney’s vote

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg campaigns at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg campaigns at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s campaign in Utah may be getting a boost from Sen. Mitt Romney’s recent vote to convict in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Bloomberg’s state campaign director said Monday.

“We’re hearing a lot from voters,” Mike for Utah state director Lauren Littlefield said during a conference call about the billionaire and former New York City mayor’s campaign efforts in Utah and Colorado. “There’s lots of feelings around Sen. Romney’s vote.”

Littlefield said Utahns are “really looking for a candidate” in the Super Tuesday presidential primary on March 3 who can take on Trump and “the conversation around impeachment and sort of the conversation around Sen. Romney is giving us some inroads into households, I’ll say, that maybe we wouldn’t have had before.”

But Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, a co-chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign in Utah, said he doesn’t believe Trump is headed for trouble here.

“I’ve had a number of what would be, I guess, classified as ‘Never Trumpers’ come to me and say they are now firmly behind President Trump and as they see what he’s done ... they’ve been really disappointed in those that have pushed the ‘Never Trump’ idea,” Adams said. “I think they’re disappointed in Sen. Romney.”

There’s been strong reaction among some state lawmakers to Romney being the only Republican to vote last week in favor of Trump’s removal from office for abusing the power of the presidency for political gain, fueling interest in a bill that would allow voters to recall a U.S. senator as well as a new proposal to censure Romney.

Those bills are likely not going far this session, but House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has called for praising Trump in the Utah Legislature in what likely will be a citation read from the chambers rather than a resolution that would require committee hearings and votes. Adams said he expects the language to be settled on shortly.

Super Tuesday, the Senate leader said, “is more of an opportunity for President Trump than for Bloomberg.” Four years ago, Trump won Utah, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, but only with 45.5 percent of the vote.

People wait for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg for a campaign event at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
People wait for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg for a campaign event at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Adams said the state will be split again over reelecting the president, but he believes Utah “will be firmly behind Trump,” even with the big spending in the state by the Bloomberg campaign, including TV commercials airing since he announced his White House bid last November.

Dan Kanninen, states director for the national Bloomberg campaign, pointed out during the conference call that Bloomberg ran ads to discuss the need for senators to take action on impeachment. So we’re early leaders in the Democratic field to express that.”

Bloomberg is not campaigning in the four early voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — choosing instead to focus on Utah and the more than a dozen other Super Tuesday states around the country. Kanninen said the campaign has hired 2,100 people nationwide, including 1,700 in field offices.

Littlefield said Bloomberg’s operations in Utah are “unprecedented” for a presidential campaign, with a staff of 19 and a second office in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley expected to open next weekend. Bloomberg’s longtime partner, Diane Taylor, launched a volunteer event last Saturday at the Salt Lake City office.

Bloomberg himself made a campaign stop in Utah last month, telling a crowd of several hundred people gathered at downtown’s Impact Hub co-working space that he is the “un-Trump” and the candidate who knows “how to unite people.”

But Adams said he believes Bloomberg’s message is not getting through to Utahns.

“I know (Bloomberg) has done a lot of work and spent a lot of money here. And thank you for that. We always like to see people spend money here in Utah, the more the better. But I’ve not talked to anyone who has — maybe I’m just talking to the wrong people — been moved by that,” the Senate president said.

Littlefield said much of the post-impeachment interest in Bloomberg is coming from Utah voters not affiliated with a political party. While most Utah voters are registered Republicans, the next largest group is unaffiliated voters, followed by Democrats.

Unlike Republicans, who hold closed primary elections, all Utah voters can participate in the Democrat’s Super Tuesday presidential primary, conducted largely by mail. That means unaffiliated voters who don’t choose to affiliate as Republican can still vote in the Democratic primary.

Because ballots started going out Monday, unaffiliated voters will need to contact their county clerks if they still want to change their party affiliation to Republican so they can receive a Republican ballot or request a Democratic ballot.

Bloomberg is one of 17 Democrats who have filed with the state to be on the Utah presidential primary ballot. Some have dropped out of the race, but only one former candidate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, withdrew her name before ballots started being mailed out to voters on Monday.