Former President Donald Trump extolled Utah Sen. Mike Lee and disparaged his independent opponent Evan McMullin during a speech in Florida over the weekend.
Lee attended the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit where Trump spoke to a group of young conservatives Saturday. At one point in the speech, the former president, who Lee once compared to Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni, started recognizing guests at the event.
“Where’s Mike Lee? Where’s Mike? Oh we love … just did a book and it’s a successful book. He’s running against McMuffin. Do you know who McMuffin is?” Trump said. Lee recently released a new book about the Supreme Court titled, “Saving Nine.”
Trump has derogatorily referred to McMullin several times as “McMuffin” since his independent run for president in 2016.
“McMuffin. He ran against me too. They said he was going to do great. He didn’t come out too well. Even Hillary beat him. Remember that? He was going to win the state. ... So, Mike has to run against him. I think that’s going to be a quick one,” Trump said.
McMullin finished third in Utah in the 2016 presidential election behind Trump, who captured less than 46% of the vote, and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Lee, who Trump endorsed earlier this year, and McMullin are engaged in a tight Senate race in Utah. The latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found Lee currently holds a five-point lead over McMullin, 41% to 36%.
Lee joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible GOP presidential candidate in 2024, as speakers at the Turning Point USA event last Friday night, the same weekend Utahns celebrated Pioneer Day.
In his speech, Lee talked about the makeup of the Supreme Court, liberty and “wokeism,” which he called “arrogant and condescending.” He said the government uses emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, to restrict people’s rights such as the freedom to assemble.
“We should never, ever surrender to that again. Never, ever will we be locked down as free citizens again,” he said.
McMullin blasted Lee for what he called leaving the campaign trail in Utah on the state’s most historically significant day of the year.
“Sen. Lee’s choice to leave Utahns this past weekend is a true testament to where his heart is. He doesn’t seek to represent Utahns — he seeks power and attention. His support comes from party bosses and special interest groups and not the people he is elected to represent,” McMullin said in a statement.
McMullin said he attended Pioneer Day events with his family in Provo on Saturday. Lee posted a Pioneer Day message on Twitter.