Exclusive – Poll: Establishment GOP Gov. Spencer Cox Trails Phil Lyman in Race for Gubernatorial Nomination in Utah

Utah State House Rep. Phil Lyman (R) has nearly a double-digit lead among verified Republican State Convention delegates when pitted against Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT) in the race for the state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination, according to an internal poll from Lyman’s campaign shared exclusively with Breitbart News.

The poll, conducted by TAG Strategies between March 14-20, found 43 percent of verified delegate respondents support Lyman in the hypothetical two-way matchup, putting him 9 points ahead of Cox, who registers at 34 percent. Another 16 percent are unsure who they would support, while 6 percent would support another candidate.

To advance to the Republican primary, a candidate must score 40 percent of support at the April 27 convention. Up to two candidates can punch their tickets to the primary, but only one will if he or she wins the convention outright with 60 percent of support. Other candidates can still make the primary ballot if they succeed in securing 28,000 signatures from registered and eligible Republican primary voters. Cox has made the ballot in that regard, per the Utah Republican Party’s website.

The survey shows Lyman, owner of a certified public accounting firm called Recapture Investment Group, has a substantial advantage over Cox among respondents who described themselves as “very conservative” by a margin of 59 percent to 17 percent. Those who are “very conservative” account for 54 percent of all delegates who participated in the survey.

The Associated Press

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) speaks during a news briefing, Friday, March 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Tag Strategies further noted in Thursday’s memo:

While Lyman has a broad base of support, he over-indexes across key groups including delegates age 55-64 (48%), delegates with a strongly favorable opinion of President Trump (69%), delegates whose top issue is immigration (68%), and delegates who prefer politicians that stick with their principles over those willing to compromise (60%).

Delegates who “strongly” favor Trump represent 72 percent of Lyman’s vote share, while 80 percent of the delegates who back him see Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) in a very positive light. Additionally, 74 percent of Lyman’s supporters identify themselves as “very conservative,” and 91 percent of them prefer politicians who abide by their principles.

Conversely, the shares of Cox’s supporters across these sub-demographics are essentially inverted from Lyman’s numbers. Just 12 percent of his supporters are “strongly favorable” of Trump, while a mere 22 percent of them have “strongly favorable” perceptions of Lee.

Cox’s anti-Trump track record offers a glimpse into this trend. In February — when it was apparent Trump was on a glide path to the Republican nomination — Cox told reporters he believed nominating Trump would be “a huge mistake” and contended former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) would win a general election by double digits, Deseret News previously reported.

Last July, he told CBS News’s Face the Nation he hoped one of the governors in the race for the Republican presidential nomination could beat Trump out, as the Hill noted.

The survey further finds roughly one in four Cox backers describe themselves as “very conservative.”

The remaining 23 percent of delegates who support another candidate or are unsure of who they would back in the head-to-head matchup align more with Lyman than they do Cox, signaling trouble for the governor.

The portion of these delegates who call themselves “very conservative” registers at 60 percent, while 44 percent of them have “strongly favorable” views of Trump and 61 percent have “strongly favorable” impressions of Lee. Moreover, 77 percent of these delegates “prefer politicians who ‘Stick with their Principles.’”

TAG Strategies surveyed 680 of the state’s Republican delegates, and the sampling error is ± 3 percentage points.

Several other candidates are also running against Cox, including former Utah GOP chair Carson Jorgensen, Sylvia Miera Fisk, and Scott Robbins. They were not included in the poll.

Cox is facing challenges after putting forth a checkered record as governor on conservative issues. He signed legislation into law last year outlawing abortion clinics in the state beginning in 2024, but that followed him vetoing a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports in March 2022. The state legislature overrode the veto.

Cox also “identified himself as ‘he, him, and his’ after a student who called herself a ‘bisexual woman’ listed her pronouns and asked the governor about mental health resources for youth who believe they are gay or lesbians, during an April 13, 2021, virtual #OneUtah Student Town Hall,” as Breitbart News political reporter Katherine Hamilton noted.

“The shortened clip also includes a portion of the town hall showing Cox talking about ‘equity and inclusion,’ buzzwords based on the teachings of critical race theory (CRT),” Hamilton adds.


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