With John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump all visiting Utah this weekend, UPH Contributing Editor John English stopped by events featuring each.
First I attended a town hall by John Kasich. There were about 500 of us in the UVU ballroom, set up as a theater-in-the-round. Utah GOP James Evans said a few words, as did Rep. Kraig Powell. They needed to stall for time since Kasich’s plane was a little late. Once he arrived, former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt made the introduction. He spoke about how open conventions are actually not that rare, that it’s happened in 10 elections for the Republican party, and 16 times for the Democratic party.
Kasich gave us a little bio; those of us who’ve ever listened to him speak knew some of it. Son of a mailman, grandson of a coal-miner, he knows how difficult upward mobility can be. He spoke about his experience in the House of Representatives, how they balanced the budget, and how Bill Clinton tried to take credit for it. Kasich said it isn’t easy to balance a federal budget, because when you do, you step on every toe.
He re-entered the prviate sector but felt a call from the Lord to go back to Ohio and save the state. He ran for governor and turned everything around. Then he opened it up for questions. First question was from a middle-aged woman who wanted to know how religious he was. (Oh, Utah…) He spoke a bit about faith and trying to do the Lord’s will, but I think he could tell the room didn’t really care about this answer. (The student next to me groaned “Are you kidding me?” when the question was asked.) When asked about foreign policy, he was able to walk us through what’s going on with each country and what he believes the US should do next.
There were five total questions, and then he had to shut it down and leave.
That evening, my brother and I went to see Donald Trump speak. It had originally been set up at the Fairgrounds, but due to safety concerns, they moved it to the much smaller Inifinity Center on 600 South. Thousands of people lined around the block but were not able to get in. We saw about three protesters across the street, but as we were ready to leave, we heard the news that the people at the downtown protest were making their way to the Infinity Center. We decided to stay and watch the show.
I was able to mingle my way through pro- and anti-Trump forces. At one point, the police made their way through the crowd and formed a line to keep the peace. Yes, there was a lot of chanting, a lot of signs. I did see some attempts at dialogue but most of it was lo here “Trump’s a racist!” and lo there “Get a job!”
A few cameras made their way through the crowd. At one point, I was by a guy from RT, the Russian-owned news channel. A two-man crew from Vice was there, doing crowd interviews. I cringed at some of the stuff the pro-Trump people were telling them. At one point, I heard an argument between two people where a pro-Trumper balked at a protester who supported Hillary Clinton. “But she’s a liar! She is such a f—ing liar!” He was oblivious to the irony. Then when Vice interviewed him, one of his complaints was how the protesters kept using the F-word. I promise this actually happened.
If there were any professional protesters, I would have guessed the guy with the dreadlocks and bullhorn was one. But he seemed like a cool guy when he was quiet, and we were smashed against each other. His friend had a blank sign. “I have a sign! I have a sign!” At one point I started chanting “Loud words repeated! Loud words repeated!”
There was a guy there representing “Latinos 4 Trump.” He wants the wall, too, as he had to wait seven years to immigrate here legally, and yet we have hundreds of thousands hopping over, doing it illegally. One guy had a #JazzLivesMatter sign, and if anyone tried to talk to him about it, he’d talk about how the Utah Jazz have a really good team we should get behind.
I stood by the row of cops that formed when the event was over. I didn’t actually see the white tent that was torn down. We just suddenly had the cops urgently push us back about ten feet. I took a billy club to the chest. Then I noticed the tent on the ground. They did pass out riot gear, but honestly, standing next to the cops, in the middle of the protest, I never felt like things were going to get out of hand. At one point, I found my brother and we left. He lived nearby, and his wife recorded Fox 13 which showed Trump’s remarks in full. We just wanted to check the footage of the crowd outside to see if we made it on TV. (“We were in this area. Pan a little to the left, Fox 13!”)
While looking at the footage, Trump’s vacuous words were going in and out of my ears. At one point he cited an Emerson poll where he has 64%! Yeah, for New York. Listening to him, I feel like I had a more entertaining, enlightening evening mingling with the people outside.
I’d say in general, the media makes it sound a little more exciting than it felt. Or maybe standing on the outside, it looked scarier than how it felt inside the crowd. I did hear one of the cops say, “There are people who need us in other parts of the city, but we all have to be here to make sure nothing happens.” Most of them had a laid-back “just doin’ my job, ma’am” demeanor to them.
Then Saturday was the Ted Cruz rally. I went to the one held at Provo High. This felt like a show, like a rock concert, like we were all extras in a two-hour Cruz promotional video. Boyd Matheson acted as host, and he first brought Carly Fiorina. I was going to say she electrified the crowd, but all of the speakers electrified the crowd. Everyone was thrilled to be there, happy to cheer, boo, laugh, and applaud at all of the right moments.
My seats weren’t great. I was close, but my vision was blocked by a giant speaker, so I mainly was able to see the candidate when he moved to the edge of the front of the stage or he moved to the back. The speaking order was Fiorina; then America’s best lieutenant governor Spencer J. Cox, a Rubio supporter who was now endorsing Cruz; then Glenn Beck, who used very overt religious imagery to emphasize how crucial this election was for the soul of our nation; then Mike Lee, who called Cruz his best friend at work; and finally Ted Cruz, who gave his usual rousing, televangelist-style stump speech.
KASICH – Smaller crowd, but he’s there to answer questions, inform people what his solutions actually are.
TRUMP – From what I saw inside, the usual rambling “we’re going to build a wall, my poll numbers are great” stuff. Outside, he inspires anger.
CRUZ – Preaching to the choir.
The latest Y2Analytics poll has Ted Cruz at 53%, John Kasich at 29%, and Donald Trump at 11% in Utah. As long as Cruz crosses the 50% threshold, he will get all of Utah’s delegates. If he is under 50%, then it will be proportional, and so you’d have something like Cruz getting 20, Kasich getting 16, and Trump getting 4. A new KSL poll also shows that if Trump is the Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton would be favored to win. Well, he did say he’d change the electoral map.