Utah Republicans talk about Trump

Posted at 8:39 PM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 22:39:10-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Republican Party is no monolith when it comes to presidential politics in 2016.

It's a far cry from the Mitt Romney landslide in the beehive state in 2012. Political strategist Boyd Matheson says Utah Republicans want a candidate kinder and gentler than Donald Trump.

Among Utahns, " may not like the commander in chief, you may not like someone elected to office, but if they're elected to that office you do treat them with dignity and respect," Matheson said.

Matheson, who recently served as Chief of Staff for Sen. Mike Lee, says he thinks Trump dodges policy questions in favor of insults.

"When he gets challenged on a policy, his natural reaction is to go with a put down. When he gets challenged on specifics of a plan he goes into spin, into hyperbole, and a lot of things that are just inappropriate," Matheson said.

State Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund has endorsed Trump.

"[Trump] is a bit of an outsider and he isn't beholden or drawn to the process that's been in place for the past eight years, which has basically been stalemate," said Okerlund, adding that he thinks Trump is committed to returning federal powers to the states.

But Okerlund shares some of the same criticisms of Trump expressed by Matheson.

On banning Muslim travel to the U.S., "It's one of those statements I don't agree with. I think it's something that as he looked more at the issues he moderated a little bit."

On calling people names and criticizing people based on their looks: "I don't like that. Some of the things he says I don't like. I think he needs to draw back that kind of caustic criticism and worry about policy. I think he has the ability to do that. In fact, I think he's coming back to the middle all the time."