SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump recorded a last-minute robocall for fellow Republican Rep. Mia Love's re-election campaign in the final days of her still-undecided race against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.
However, the president's recorded message on behalf of the two-term congresswoman was only sent out to a few thousand people identified as Trump supporters on Election Day, Love's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said Thursday.
A day earlier, Trump criticized Love and other Republican candidates for distancing themselves from him in the midterm election, accusing Love of calling "all the time" to help with the release of Utahn Josh Holt from a Venezuelan prison.
"But Mia Love gave me no love," the president said during a White House news conference. "She lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia."
The 4th Congressional District race remains too close to call, as ballots are still being counted. New numbers released Thursday afternoon from the Salt Lake County portion of the district expanded McAdams' lead over Love there by 1,714 votes.
The latest results from the largely by-mail election give McAdams just over a 3.5-point lead over Love, 51.77 percent to 48.23 percent, throughout the district that also includes a part of Utah County, as well as Juab and Sanpete counties.
Love's campaign is counting on uncounted votes in those conservative areas to push her over the top. Utah County, which has reported nearly 89,000 uncounted ballots overall, is scheduled to release the first post-election night results on Friday.
McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, was upbeat about Salt Lake County's new numbers.
“We are encouraged by the fact that our lead in the balloting increased," Roberts said. "We appreciate the dedication and care from all elections officials and employees to ensure a fair and accurate vote-counting process.”
Love's campaign downplayed McAdams' increased lead.
"We expected that," Hansen said. "There are still a lot of votes to be counted and released, especially those from Utah County. Let's wait until tomorrow and see what the numbers look like (that) they release."
He also declined to release a copy of the robocall recorded by Trump or even a transcript.
"The election's over. We are not going to pass out everything," Hansen said.
The robocall was recorded a few days before the election, he said, and wasn't a slam on McAdams, but did say he's "a liberal and electing him would result in Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker. Nothing more than what we've said in the campaign."
The president's message also referred to "how much Mia was involved in getting Josh Holt released and praised Mia for that, and talked about the job numbers and the economy, how strong it was," Hansen said.
Trump also said "having Mia re-elected would be great for the country and great for Utah," he said.
Asked why the president was suddenly so critical of Love the day after the election, Hansen said "you'll have to ask Trump. I have no idea."
No concern was expressed by the White House about the limited use of the president's recorded message, Hansen said.
"I don't know if he was upset," he said. "Nobody said anything else about it, and I sincerely doubt he was checking to see how many people it had been sent to or anything like that. We used it as we thought best."
He said the president offered to record the call "at that point in time," but continued to decline to talk about what else Trump was willing to do, including adding Utah to his campaign stops around the country.
McAdams' campaign had no comment on the Trump robocall.
Chris Karpowitz, co-director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said because Trump is "a very polarizing figure," it made sense for Love to limit who received the call.
"The 4th District turns on independents and moderate Republicans, and a message from the president may have actually had a negative effect on those voters," Karpowitz said. "So it's not surprising to me."
He said Love was "smart not to make this election about Donald Trump. That was not going to be a winning strategy in the 4th District," where the president's popularity lags.
Karpowitz said despite the new Salt Lake County numbers, he expects the race to tighten up in the coming days as more votes are counted. He said the election will come down to how many votes remain to be tallied in Utah County.
"Everyone is still on the edge of their seats," he said. "It's not going to end up as a 3.5 point race. It's going to be a lot closer than that. I think both campaigns have reason for both hope and a great deal of anxiety."22 comments on this story
Holt, a Love supporter, said Thursday he was "shocked" by the president's reference during the White House news conference to the nearly two years Holt was held in a Venezuelan prison before his release in May.
"I didn't know that it was Mia's responsibility to need to ask the president to help one of their citizens," he said. "I thought that was the entire U.S. government's responsibility to get me out of that situation, not just Mia Love's and Sen. Hatch's."
Contributing: Annie Knox