- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made a bold appeal to Utah’s Mormon voters Wednesday, as her campaign moved to expand the map in red states potentially turned off by Republican nominee Donald Trump.

She presented herself to Utah voters as a champion of religious freedom and questioned Mr. Trump’s commitment to religious tolerance in an op-ed in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Her campaign also has expanded operations in Arizona and Georgia, where changing demographics and persistent GOP resistance to Mr. Trump could give the former first lady an opening.

All three states have not voted Democrat for president in at least two decades.

“As Americans, we hold fast to the belief that everyone has the right to worship however he or she sees fit,” she wrote in the op-ed that targeted Mormons, a religious minority nationally that make up 60 percent of the population in Utah.

Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Trump revealed his “true colors” when he proposed a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. as a safeguard against terrorism, which she said would “undo centuries of American tradition and values.”

“But you don’t have to take it from me. Listen to Mitt Romney, who said Trump ‘fired before aiming’ when he decided a blanket religious ban was a solution to the threat of terrorism,” said Mrs. Clinton, referring the 2012 GOP presidential nominee and a Mormon who has become a fierce ant-Trump voice.

She stressed that as secretary of state she backed Christians in Egypt, Buddhists in Tibet and Christians in China, noting her work with Jon Huntsman, then-Ambassador to China and a former Utah governor.

The Deseret News has invited all the presidential nominees to pen op-eds. Mrs. Clinton took the opportunity to make inroads in a state where there have been signs of soft support for Mr. Trump.

Recent GOP-leaning polls show him with as much as a 12-point lead in the heavily Mormon state.

Other polls have shown a closer race, and the entry of independent candidate Evan McMullins, a Utah native running as conservative alternative to Mr. Trump, could further complicate the race.

Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson surged to 16 percent of the vote in a recent UtahPolicy/Dan Jones poll, providing fresh evidence that there is room for competition in the Beehive State.

Mr. Trump topped Mrs. Clinton in the survey by 12 points, 37 percent to 25 percent.

The poll was conducted before Mr. McMullin, a former CIA agent, got in the race this week.

The Trump campaign has discounted Mrs. Clinton’s attempts to make inroads in red states. Mr. Trump has insisted that he is the one who will scramble the map by putting in play blue states, such as Pennsylvania.

However, recent polls show Mr. Trump falling further behind Mrs. Clinton in Pennsylvania.

In Georgia, which hasn’t gone Democrat since electing Bill Clinton in 1992, Mrs. Clinton broke into the lead this week. A JMC Analytics survey gave her a 7-point advantage over Mr. Trump in a two-way race, 44 percent to 37 percent.

The race is tight in Arizona. A CBS News/YouGov poll gave Mr. Trump a 2-point lead, 44 percent to 42 percent, which is within the margin of error.

Mr. Trump’s uneasy relationship with Republican elected officials has been acute in Arizona, where Sen. Jeff Flake has been an outspoken critic. Sen. John McCain, who is in a tight reelection contest and endorsed Mr. Trump, also has objected to some of the rhetoric from his party’s nominee.

On the stump in the swing state of Iowa, Mrs. Clinton appealed to Republicans to reject Mr. Trump because he has “crossed the line” with careless comments about guns and nuclear warfare.

She said her campaign will welcome Republicans who are fed up with Mr. Trump and, for whatever reason, feel they can no longer support his candidacy.

“The stakes have never been higher. I am humbled and moved by the Republicans who are willing to stand up and say Donald Trump doesn’t represent their values, not only as Republicans but as Americans,” said Mrs. Clinton. “I have to tell you, I feel that same sense of responsibility. We may not agree on everything, but this is not a normal election. And I will work hard for the next three months to earn the support of anyone willing to put our country first.”

In the op-ed, Mrs. Clinton made the same argument.

“Every day, Trump continues to prove he lacks the morals to be our commander-in-chief. In just the last couple of weeks, he’s attacked the parents of an American soldier who gave his life for this country. He’s all but proposed abandoning our NATO allies, and we recently learned he even mused about the possible first-use of nuclear weapons,” she wrote.

“Americans don’t have to agree on everything. We never have. But when it comes to religion, we strive to be accepting of everyone around us. That’s because we need each other. And we know that it so often takes a village — or a ward — working together to build the change we hope to see,” wrote Mrs. Clinton.

⦁ Benjamin Wolfgang contributed to this report.

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