SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has put a bull’s-eye on Utah’s only Democratic member of Congress, 4th District Rep. Ben McAdams, promising Tuesday to keep up the pressure as part of a nationwide anti-impeachment effort dubbed “Stop the Madness.”
“That’s the point of this exercise, so that voters know who is for throwing the president out of office on strictly partisan grounds and who’s against it,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s campaign communications director, told reporters on a conference call. “We’re happy to have exposed what the positions are for various House members.”
McAdams is one of more than 60 Democrats around the country in vulnerable districts who’ve been targeted by Trump’s reelection campaign for going along with the House impeachment inquiry into the president pressuring foreign leaders to investigate his chief Democratic rival in the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Andrew Roberts, McAdams’ campaign manager, said the effort isn’t having an impact. Before McAdams announced on Oct. 4 he was in favor of the impeachment inquiry already underway, he was among just a handful of holdouts among House Democrats.
“The Trump campaign’s efforts here really don’t matter to us,” Roberts said, promising that McAdams will not make a judgment on impeachment itself until “all the facts are on the table” and has called on his congressional colleagues to do the same.
“The nation deserves to know this is a process that’s in the best interest of them and not the Democratic party,” Roberts said. “I think that goes back again to his reluctance to get behind the impeachment inquiry in the first place.”
The Trump campaign organized an event last week outside McAdams’ West Jordan office, but the president’s supporters were outnumbered by a boisterous group that showed up to back McAdams for his stand on the impeachment inquiry and to oppose Trump.
And a new UtahPolicy.com poll released Tuesday shows a third of Utah voters are ready to vote for any Democrat for president in 2020. The poll also found just 41% of voters in what is one of the most Republican states in the country back a second term for Trump.
Rick Gorka, the Trump campaign’s regional communications director, expressed no concern about the president’s standing in Utah but did suggest whoever the Democrats nominate to run on the November 2020 ballot will be too liberal for the state.
“Utah is a red state and I seriously doubt a socialist, pro-infanticide candidate running against President Donald Trump will turn it blue in 2020,” Gorka told KSL in an email. He did not respond to questions about the turnabout at last week’s West Jordan event, one of some 60 held around the country.
Gorka said on the conference call that the Republican National Committee is spending $350,000 to keep the pressure on the targeted Democrats, through digital advertising on Hulu, Facebook and YouTube, as well as texts and other messaging. Trump Victory has previously announced $2 million was being spent against them.
Because McAdams and the other Democrats on the list are in districts that Trump won in 2016, Murtaugh said they are “front and center, and the question for them is, ‘Do they support their constituents’ wishes or are they going to do the bidding of Nancy Pelosi and House leadership in this rush to impeachment?”
He said there are 8.8 million Americans who voted for Trump in 2016, but did not vote in the 2018 midterm elections that saw Democrats regain control of the House. McAdams won his seat last year by less than 700 votes, defeating two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love.
“We are just reminding these House members that they represent districts that came out for the president in big numbers and that those same voters will be back again in 2020,” Murtaugh said. McAdams’ name was not mentioned during the conference call.
No details of the Trump campaign’s future plans against the Democratic House members were disclosed.
McAdams is gearing up for another tough race this year, with several Republicans already campaigning for the seat. On Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission’s reporting deadline for the third quarter of the year that ended Sept. 30, McAdams was ahead in fundraising.
His campaign announced McAdams has more than $1 million in cash on hand, after raising more than $500,000 in both the second and third quarters of the year. Roberts said the numbers show continued “support for the congressman’s commitment to bipartisan problem solving.”
On the GOP side, state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said he raised $418,000 since announcing he was in the race in August, and has $400,000 in cash on hand. Hemmert, who loaned his campaign $175,000, recently qualified for “Young Gun” status with the National Republican Congressional Committee.
State Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, said she raised $110,000 and has $80,000 in cash on hand.
Former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland’s campaign said he’s raised $53,000 and has $28,000 in cash on hand, while Kathleen Anderson, who handled communications for the Utah Republican Party, reported raising more than $42,000 and loaning her campaign $130,000, with more than $100,000 in cash on hand.
Hemmert and Coleman attended the Trump campaign event outside McAdams’ office last week, but neither spoke to the crowd.
“It was this group yelling at that group. And to me, it was kind of bonkers so I left,” Hemmert said. Asked if that type of event would help Trump shore up support in Utah, he said, “I’m not going to run that kind of campaign. I don’t think that would be effective in my congressional race.”
He said while he doesn’t think shouting matches are “Utah’s political culture,” it also was not what Trump Victory intended.
Coleman said, “It’s too early to tell how that will work here. But the House Democrats’ record of non-achievement will be what this campaign is about. In my opinion, House Democrats will have a great deal to answer for in November of 2020.”
Trump did see a slight bump in support in the poll released Tuesday since July, when 38% of Utah voters said they wanted to see him stay in the White House. But at the same time, the number of Utah voters who say they’ll vote for the yet-to-be determined Democratic Party nominee is also up, from 30% to 33%.
What’s dropped is how many voters are undecided, from 14% in July to 10% in the new results, as well as those who favor third-party or other, unspecified presidential contenders in next year’s elections.
The current poll was conducted by Y2 Analytics for the online political news source Sept. 25 through Oct. 8 among 979 Utah voters participating in the Utah Political Trends panel and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The impeachment inquiry was announced Sept. 24.
Trump won Utah in 2016, a state that has not voted for a Democrat for president since Lyndon Johnson was on the ballot 55 years ago. However, Trump ended up with just 45.5% of the Utah vote, his lowest margin of victory in any of the states he won in the election.
“It’s very clear the president does what he does,” Utah Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown said of Trump. He said future involvement in the Trump campaign’s “Stop the Madness” events will be determined on a “case-by-case” basis. “As a party, we are sensitive to what works in Utah and what doesn’t.”
Brown said it was disappointing to see last week’s Trump campaign event “hijacked.”
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said it’s “very interesting that they’re calling this a ‘Stop the Madness’ campaign, because I’ve never known fact-finding to be about madness. The reality is all Congress has said is they’re looking into this. I’ve never seen any president or campaign overreact so quickly.”
Merchant said Trump and his political tactics don’t play well in Utah.
“Reasonable Republicans recognize that he is not a positive influence on the politics in our country. I think that reasonable Republicans don’t want him to be here any more than reasonable Democrats do.”