WASHINGTON, August 8, 2016 — “Never Trump” activists have not stopped their efforts, and have now announced that they have a candidate who is ready to run as an independent and take the fight to Donald Trump. The anti-Trump independent candidate is former CIA officer Evan McMullin.
In addition to his time at the CIA, McMullin served as chief policy director for House Republicans. McMullin has been vocal about his opposition to Trump and to Hillary Clinton. McMullin is being unofficially financed and backed by the group “Better For America,” which has been working to get on the ballot in as many states as possible.
McMullin is from Utah, a key state where Trump is facing low polling numbers. He has released a statement explaining his decision to run:
With the stakes so high for our nation and at this late stage in the process, I can no longer stand on the sidelines … Our country needs leaders who are in it for the right reasons and who actually understand what makes this country the greatest on earth—leaders who will unite us and guide us to a prosperous, secure future, beyond the dysfunction of a broken political system.”
McMullin’s campaign, backed by some Republicans, shows that the “Never Trump” movement is still alive and working to stop Trump despite having less than three months until the election. McMullin is a long shot, but he has a strong organization and has been critical of Trump all over social media for his “doom and gloom” messaging.
Authoritarians like @realDonaldTrump use promises of law & order to justify infringing on civil rights as they consolidate control by force.
— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) July 22, 2016
Despite being a long-shot candidate, McMullin still has the opportunity to get his name on the ballot but faces a deadline that is fast approaching. To get on the ballot in Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire he needs to collect more than 5,000 signatures in each state.
McMullin has already missed the deadline to be included on the ballots of half the states. He could, however, have an impact on the race.
For the first time in 50 years, Utah is in play. That state has only six electoral votes, but it has been reliably red in every election since Nixon defeated Humphrey. But many Mormons don’t like Trump, and the Mormon McMullin—he served an LDS mission in Brazil and graduated from BYU—has begun to generate some buzz on LDS blogs.
Gary Johnson, whose campaign is headquartered in Salt Lake, has made some missteps but still polls in double digits in Utah. Between them, Johnson and McMullin won’t pull a majority of Utah’s votes, but they could siphon off enough conservatives from the hugely unpopular Trump to give Clinton a shot. And the same dynamics help her in Idaho, Arizona and Nevada.
McMullin’s candidacy may be just an opportunity for “Never Trump” Republicans to continue to vent their anger while acting as if they are doing some good for the Republican Party. He has almost no chance of winning even a single state, not even Utah. But he is on the margin an excuse to vote for someone other than Trump, and in some states that might make a difference.
In this peculiar election, even the minor candidates can make a difference. McMullin just might paint Utah blue for the first time in generations.