homepage logo

Trump is going to win, Utah governor says. But both parties are ‘making a huge mistake’

By Kyle Dunphey - Utah News Dispatch | Feb 16, 2024

Laura Seitz, Deseret News, Pool

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to reporters at the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox hasn’t voted for a major presidential candidate since Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012. For the last 12 years, the governor has gone with a write-in, he says.

That likely won’t change this year, with Cox on Thursday saying “we’re making a huge mistake as Americans” backing President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

“I think that we should be nominating different people. I think both parties are making a huge mistake,” he told reporters during the governor’s monthly PBS news conference.

But if Cox was a betting man, his money would be on Trump.

“He’ll win Utah, I have no question about that,” he said. “I do think that President Trump is going to win the general election and I will work very closely with him.”

Cox’s comments come just a month after his wife, first lady Abby Cox, along with Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and a handful of prominent Utah state politicians endorsed Nikki Haley’s bid for the White House.

Trump has since handed several primary defeats to Haley, who received just 19% of the caucus vote in Iowa and 43% of the primary vote in New Hampshire, compared to the former president’s 54%. In Nevada she received 32% of the vote, and in South Carolina, where Haley served as governor, she is trailing Trump by 36%, according to a recent Winthrop University poll.

Still, Haley presses on, telling NBC in an interview last month she doesn’t necessarily need to win South Carolina to build momentum.

“But it certainly has to be better than what I did in New Hampshire, and it certainly has to be close,” Haley said.

Cox stopped just shy of officially endorsing Haley on Thursday, telling reporters he would “love” to see her get the GOP nomination. If that happened — or if Republicans were to nominate “literally anyone else” — they would win the general election handily, he said.

“The party that figures this out first and nominates someone else, although that may be four years from now, is going to clean up in a big way. I think they could win by some historical margins,” Cox said.

But for 2024, it’s “pretty clear” that Haley, or anyone else, won’t be able to best Biden or Trump for either nomination, Cox said, railing against what he called a “messed up” primary system, where voters in Iowa and New Hampshire set the tone for the entire primary.

“I would love to see that change,” he said, telling reporters the primary is “already baked.”

The governor has criticized Trump before, acknowledging Biden’s 2020 victory while Trump was still falsely claiming he had won, and more recently, questioning his electability. On Thursday, he said if Trump changed his rhetoric and tweaked some policies, he would be a much better candidate.

“There are so many things I disagree with him on,” Cox said. “I would love to be able to help President Trump and I would love to be able to work closely with him. I think he could win by 10 points if he could change his messaging, some of his policies and the way he treats other people. But I suspect that that’s not going to happen.”

Cox clarified that whoever the president is, he’ll work with them to “advance Utah’s vision for the country.”

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)