CLEVELAND — Utah's 40 delegate votes unexpectedly went for Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention Tuesday, not for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the winner of the state's GOP presidential preference caucus.
The surprise announcement from the convention podium was apparently just another sign of the friction between the GOP and Utah Republicans over the billionaire businessman and reality TV star, now their party's nominee.
Utah's delegation to the convention made national headlines Monday when Sen. Mike Lee helped lead a floor fight over the national party's rules in a failed attempt to force what would have amounted to a protest vote against Trump.
Trump's campaign is worried enough about his support in Utah that his vice-presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is set to visit the state as soon as possible, a source told the Deseret News.
"The concern is if the reddest of the red states is in the toss-up category, that's a bad story for them," the source, who has had conversations with the Trump campaign, said.
Pence, a friend of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, is a favorite with conservatives and is seen as having a style and temperament more in line with Utah Republicans than the often bombastic Trump.
Utah's votes went to Trump as the result of an interpretation of state party rules that prevents delegates from backing a candidate no longer in the race. It came after Utah GOP Vice Chairman Phil Wright cast the state's votes for Cruz.
"It was an obscure provision of the Utah rules," Lee, R-Utah, said, invoked by the Republican National Committee shortly before the states began casting their votes. He noted dryly that Trump only won 14 percent in Utah's caucus election in March.
"I read the rule just a little while ago and I didn't necessarily see it applied that way," Lee said. "This is our system. This is what we've got. And this is what happened."
His message for Utah Republican voters who gave Cruz an overwhelming victory over Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Trump, was that rules applied and "thrust upon the party by RNC officials sometimes have odd consequences."
Lee, who considers Cruz a close friend, said Monday's rules battle wouldn't have changed the outcome. Asked if he felt the national party was punishing Utah, he said, "I would hope they wouldn't do that. That would seem a little silly, wouldn't it?"
The senator, who has not endorsed Trump, said national party leaders likely didn't have that in mind, "but they did have in mind what they wanted."
Utah's delegates cheered when their votes were cast for Cruz and then booed at the announcement they instead would go to Trump, who had already won enough votes at the convention for the nomination.
The rule that ended up giving Trump the state's votes was actually passed by the Utah GOP to help the party's 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, one of the state's most popular politicians. Many Utahns held out hope Romney would get in the 2016 race.
Former Utah Congresswoman Enid Greene Mickelsen, the chairwoman of the convention's rules committee, said she found out about the rule Tuesday and had to ask the national party's counsel about it.
Mickelsen was in the middle of the chaos surrounding Monday's rules fight that pitted party leaders against anti-Trump delegates who sought to vote their conscience rather than be bound to the state election results.
She said Utahns have to put aside their feelings about Trump and get behind the party's nominee or they'll be helping the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, win the White House.
"I've said Utahns are working through the five stages of grief," Mickelsen said. "I hope they get there. Because if they don't, they’re playing right into Hillary Clinton’s hands."
David Clark, a former Utah House speaker and a member of the delegation, said Trump's nomination was not a sad day.
"I actually think that moment came a few months ago. And tonight, I think, is a night for celebration. I’m happy to have a Republican nominee. That defining day has finally come. I think you’re going to see a lot of building up."
Earlier Tuesday, Lee was applauded by the Utah delegation for the last-ditch effort against Trump.
"We don’t always like the outcome of the debates in which we're involved, but we look forward to the opportunity to make things better tomorrow when things don't go the way we hope today," Lee said at the delegates' breakfast meeting.
Lee told reporters at the delegates' Akron hotel that he continues to have concerns about Trump, but with party rules in place that bind the delegates votes, "as far as I'm aware, that's the end of the matter."
He said "many, many hundreds of delegates" wanted a roll call vote on adopting the rules put together by the committee headed by Mickelsen.
Instead, Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack announced the rules had passed on a voice vote and left the stage, prompting a loud protest. When he returned about 15 minutes later, he said there was no longer the required support for the vote.
That move hurt the party and Trump, Lee said.
GOP leaders, he said, decided to take away the rights of delegates and "to shut down debate on it — to just dismiss it altogether under the banner of unity. That's not unity. That's coercion masquerading as unity."
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans told the delegates all of the attention was good for the state.
"No matter which side of the issue you were on, isn't it great to see Utahns and Enid up on stage? It doesn't matter which side you're on, Utahns are involved," Evans said.
Wright, the Utah delegation chairman who had moved for a roll call vote on the floor Monday, told a reporter the floor fight was not intended to hurt Trump.
"If someone wants to think following the political process of being a delegate and voting has anything to do with embarrassing the nominee, then they don't understand the process," he said.
Contributing: Ladd Egan
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