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How Utah became a player in the 2016 election

Posted November 8

National media outlets from around the nation have put an increased emphasis on Utah, a traditionally red state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964 but doesn’t overwhelmingly support the current GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

In fact, as BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins reported, Trump and his campaign have struggled to lock down Utah completely, saying that the state may not tie itself to the Republican Party in upcoming elections because of the damage that’s been done.

Trump, however, still leads the state in the most recent polls.

The pollsters at FiveThirtyEight, meanwhile, give third-party candidate Evan McMullin a 12.7 percent chance of winning the state, as he sits at an average 28 percent of the vote. Much of this is due to McMullin spreading a #NeverTrump and true conservative message.

CNN talked to independent candidate McMullin on Monday morning, highlighting how the candidate has a chance to win Utah.

All of these news events are why Utah’s been called a battleground state (by CNN, the Washington Post and NBC News) and a strange swing state.

So how did we get to this point? Here’s a look at our reports about all the events that have helped shape the Beehive State into a battleground for the 2016 election.

Rumors started to swirl that 2012 Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 election to President Barack Obama, would make a run for the presidency.

• Jan 21: Mitt sounds like a candidate at Salt Lake speech

• June 29: Mitt Romney says family still wants him to run for president

• June 30: Hal Boyd: Why Mitt Romney's family, supporters still want him to run

Instead, Romney decided to speak out against Donald Trump, who started to make a heavy impact in the polls.

• March 3: Mitt Romney: Trump is 'a phony, a fraud'

• June 29: Romney 'dismayed' by presidential choices, won't run as independent

• June 30: Mitt Romney still taking on Donald Trump over releasing tax returns

Polls showed that Utahns didn’t favor Trump, supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over all other GOP nominees in the Utah caucus.

• March 22: Cruz wins big in Utah over Kasich, Trump

Then Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate who has his headquarters in the state, became more popular.

• Aug. 1: They're telling us there's a chance: Could Utah help land Libertarian in White House?

Political pundits and commentators suggested that Romney might endorse Johnson because of the former Massachusetts governor’s friendship with Johnson’s running mate, Bill Weld.

• July 28: If Mitt Romney endorsed Gary Johnson, Utah could very well become a swing state

It was around this time that Johnson’s popularity began to surge in Utah, despite some conflicting words about religious freedom and the LDS Church.

• Aug. 8: Who is Gary Johnson? Some frustrated Utah voters looking at Libertarian candidate

• Aug. 2: Gary Johnson may have upset Utah Mormons, but here's how he still plans to win their votes

• Aug. 8: Poll: Trump leads Clinton in Utah; Libertarian Johnson surging

• Sept. 7: Gary Johnson and Hillary Clinton are essentially tied in Utah

Utah became something of a swing state.

• July 30: National conversations taking place about 'Utah, the great swing state'

Eventually, all three national candidates submitted op-eds to the Deseret News.

Gary Johnson submitted first.

• Aug. 2: Exclusive: Gary Johnson: Clarifying my views on religious freedom, Mormons

Followed by Hillary Clinton.

• Aug. 10: Exclusive: Hillary Clinton: What I have in common with Utah leaders

And then Trump.

• Aug. 15: Exclusive: Donald Trump: Utah can help make America great again

If that wasn’t enough, BYU grad Evan McMullin announced that he would make a “Hail Mary” bid for the presidency.

• Aug. 8: Hal Boyd: BYU grad set to launch Hail Mary bid for the presidency

• Aug. 8: BYU grad launches last-minute campaign for president

• Aug. 25: Evan McMullin campaign hitting, missing presidential ballot deadlines

• Oct 14: This is Evan McMullin's slim but entirely possible chance at the presidency

• Oct. 14: Presidential candidate Evan McMullin running to win, start new conservative movement

Slowly, McMullin gained more attention.

• Aug. 16: Evan McMullin's Mormon faith addressed in interview with Fox News

• Aug. 22: Why would Evan McMullin run for president? Washington Post writer tells the story

• Oct. 3: Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin using Mitt Romney email list to raise money

• Oct. 26: WATCH: ABC's 'Nightline' follows Evan McMullin around the Salt Lake Valley

• Oct. 31: Here's what Evan McMullin did as an undercover CIA agent

McMullin shared an op-ed with the Deseret News once his popularity began to rise.

• Sept. 9: Exclusive: Evan McMullin: I'm running for president to give voters someone they can support proudly

As did a number of other surrogates and supporters of the candidates.

In early October, after some disparaging remarks by Trump about women were released, the Deseret News published an editorial calling on the GOP nominee to "resign his candidacy."

And now, Utah’s remains a hard state to call, though polls seem to have leveled out and shown a Trump lead.

• Nov. 3: 3 new polls point to Trump winning Utah; 2 put McMullin in 3rd place

• Nov. 4: New poll shows voter uncertainty about Trump lead in Utah

• Nov. 7: Presidential campaigns making final pitches to Utah voters

What will happen? We will know soon.

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