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Trump wins Utah to extend GOP’s 5-decade winning streak

November 9, 2016 GMT
Hana Alshamry, left, waits in line with others to vote at the Holladay City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Holladay, Utah. Utah's mostly Mormon, mostly Republican voters are going to the polls Tuesday to determine if the GOP's five-decade winning streak in presidential elections will remain intact or be snapped. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hana Alshamry, left, waits in line with others to vote at the Holladay City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Holladay, Utah. Utah's mostly Mormon, mostly Republican voters are going to the polls Tuesday to determine if the GOP's five-decade winning streak in presidential elections will remain intact or be snapped. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hana Alshamry, left, waits in line with others to vote at the Holladay City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Holladay, Utah. Utah's mostly Mormon, mostly Republican voters are going to the polls Tuesday to determine if the GOP's five-decade winning streak in presidential elections will remain intact or be snapped. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hana Alshamry, left, waits in line with others to vote at the Holladay City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Holladay, Utah. Utah's mostly Mormon, mostly Republican voters are going to the polls Tuesday to determine if the GOP's five-decade winning streak in presidential elections will remain intact or be snapped. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hana Alshamry, left, waits in line with others to vote at the Holladay City Hall Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Holladay, Utah. Utah's mostly Mormon, mostly Republican voters are going to the polls Tuesday to determine if the GOP's five-decade winning streak in presidential elections will remain intact or be snapped. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican Donald Trump won Utah’s six electoral votes to extend the GOP’s five-decade winning streak in the state.

Trump was winning with a smaller percentage of the vote than Republican presidential candidates in recent history but still doing well enough to hold off Democrat Hillary Clinton and independent candidate Evan McMullin, who came in third place.

Many of Utah’s mostly Mormon voters struggled to embrace Trump’s brash demeanor and recoiled over the billionaire’s comments about women, minorities and Muslims. He finished third in the state’s Republican caucus in March.

That led pundits and pollsters to push the normally solid Republican state into the tossup category. But in the end, Trump easily won the state.

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At the Utah Republican Party’s election night event, people cheered and whooped as they watched favorable results on giant television screens at a contemporary hall with sweeping views of the city above the stadium at the University of Utah. A man dressed in an Abraham Lincoln-style stovepipe hat mingled with supporters and elected officials, though most attendees dressed in suits and ties or more casual attire.

State party chair James Evans, a Trump supporter, said Utah voters looked past the allegations of sexual harassment against the bombastic candidate because they care about issues like appointing conservatives to the U.S. Supreme Court and the economy.

“Utah is pragmatic, and they’ve moved beyond that,” Evans said.

Trump’s victory denied Clinton and McMullin the chance to become the first non-Republican presidential candidate to win Utah since Lyndon Johnson since 1964.

Republicans outnumber Democrats 4-to-1 among 1.4 million active voters in the state.

More than 1 in 10 Utah voters said they remained undecided about their vote for president until the last few days before the election, according to exit polls done by The Associated Press. Of those voters who made a decision in the final days, about 4 in 10 picked Trump. Three in 10 of the late-deciders chose Evan McMullin, the third-party candidate who hoped to spoil the race for Trump in the state.

McMullin was also able to capture close to a third of the Mormon vote in the state.

The survey of 1,203 Utah voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 15 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 337 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 29 through Nov. 4. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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Nathan Nelson, 52, a civil engineer from Sandy, Utah, voted for Trump to ensure protection of the Second Amendment and that a new Supreme Court justice will represent conservative values. He also likes Trump’s hard stance on securing the borders and immigration.

“His brashness doesn’t bother me at all,” said Nelson, a Utah native and father of four. “He says a lot of things that are unpolished for a politician, but I don’t think he’s quite as dishonest.”

Running as a conservative alternative to Trump, McMullin surged in the polls after entering the race as an unknown in August. His showing was the best by a third party candidate in Utah since Ross Perot in 1992.

McMullin hosted an election night party in downtown Salt Lake City, where supported stopped to take pictures on a red carpet before being handed glowing gel necklaces and sticks holding miniature flags that lit up. A table containing gummi bears, red hots, pretzels, trail mix and other candy was heavily trafficked.

McMullin told his supporters late Tuesday night that his loss won’t stop his fight to spark a new conservative movement that is more open and compassionate than the Republican Party of Trump. He laughed off his supporters’ chants of, “2020,” and instead urged everyone to take up the fight tomorrow. A Trump win, he said, would validate the need for the movement.

“We are not going away,” McMullin vowed. “This fight does not end tonight.”

McMullin, 40, was born in Provo, Utah, and went to college at the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University before an 11-year career in the CIA and work as congressional aide. He, like about two-thirds of Utah residents, is Mormon.

E-commerce business owner Cameron Robinson, 38, of Eagle Mountain voted for McMullin. He doesn’t find Trump trustworthy, doesn’t think he’s a true conservative and is troubled by how he seems to idolize world dictators.

Robinson, a Mormon father of five, said his vote shows the “Republican party isn’t entitled to or doesn’t own conservative votes.”

The race for the White House helped spike voter registrations in Utah, but elections officials said many voters were slow to vote early or turn in their mail-in ballots, perhaps because they were still agonizing over their choices.

Early turnout as of Monday afternoon was about 41 percent, according to the state elections office. When voters hit the polls Tuesday, they encountered long lines, with waits ranging from 30 to 90 minutes in some places. In one county, a problem with voting machines forced poll workers to switch to paper ballots.

While the presidential race was the most hotly contested competition in Utah’s 2016 election, voters were also deciding if five Republican incumbents in powerful positions win re-election bids as expected.

Gov. Gary Herbert defeated Democrat Mike Weinholtz, a wealthy former CEO of a medical staffing company. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee easily beat political newcomer Misty Snow, a Democrat trying to become the first openly transgender woman elected in Utah.

U.S. Rep. Mia Love won her rematch against Democrat Doug Owens in another tight contest. Results in that race were slow to come in due to long waits at voting places across Salt Lake County that left lines of voters still waiting to cast ballots hours after polls had closed. County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said she wouldn’t put out any results until people were done voting.

The other three incumbent Republican members of Congress_Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart_breezed past their Democrat challengers.

Utah’s transformation from an afterthought in the presidential election to a tossup state began in March, when the state’s Republican voters soundly rejected Trump in the state’s presidential caucus. Trump earned only 14 percent of the votes, finishing a distant third.

That result came on the heels of Utah’s favorite political son, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, calling Trump a “phony and fraud” in a scathing speech delivered in Utah.

The disdain for Trump seemed to soften a bit over the summer, but it flared up in October when a recording came out of Trump boasting in 2005 of how his fame allowed him to impose himself on women.

That led Herbert to pull his support for Trump. Several members of Congress followed by calling on Trump to step aside.

Among Utah’s congregational delegation, Sen. Lee and Rep. Love have held firm in opposition of Trump while Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Bishop, Chaffetz and Stewart said they would vote for Trump in an attempt to keep Clinton from winning.