McMullin is a stalking horse

Seeking to have someone, anyone to vote for besides Donald Trump, several prominent Republicans including Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard sought to find an acceptable candidate to run for president as an independent. Several individuals were mentioned, but all declined. Finally in August a champion arose for the #NeverTrump movement, the virtually unknown policy director of the House Republican Conference, Evan McMullin. This savior of conservatives has an interesting resume, having been employed by Goldman Sachs, the CIA, and the United Nations in addition to being a chief policy wonk for the House’s GOP members. It’s also notable that he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. But these aren’t the factors that the McMullin campaign seems interested in broadcasting to sway the voters.

“McMullin’s failure to file any ballot access lawsuits is a missed opportunity.”

Despite announcing ambitions to be on the ballot everywhere, McMullin has only managed to get his name printed for voters in just eleven states. In fact, more people will have a chance to mark a ballot for Gloria La Riva of the Socialism and Libertation Party than the 15.66% who can choose McMullin. Like all presidential candidates, McMullin has made empty promises, but didn’t wait for even a single vote to be cast to start breaking his word about aggressively pursuing legal action to obtain ballot status. As Richard Winger of Ballot Access News points out, “McMullin’s failure to file any ballot access lawsuits is a missed opportunity.”

It seems unlikely that he just woke up one day and decided to run for president. Instead, he was chosen.

One might begin to wonder what the point of Evan McMullin’s quixotic candidacy might be. It seems unlikely that he just woke up one day and decided to run for president. Instead, he was chosen. There are a great many Republicans that would have comparably non-existent name recognition and pedestrian political careers. But the numbers of Republicans about whom a pretense of qualification could be maintained, if only marginally, and who also happen to be a native Utahan and a Mormon are much smaller. Of that tiny group it appears there was at least one willing participant, Evan McMullin.

Mormons have been less willing than many other GOP constituencies to hold their noses and support the decadent and worldly Donald Trump.

Utah is a rock-ribbed Republican state that hasn’t gone Democrat since 1964, but it is unique among all states in that it has a Mormon supermajority with over 60% of the population belonging to the Church of Latter Day Saints. Mormons have been less willing than many other GOP constituencies to hold their noses and support the decadent and worldly Donald Trump, even more so as proof of his aggressive sexual behavior has come to light. As Utah voters rejected Trump but were also refusing to embrace Hillary Clinton, the state began to look very promising for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate.

The only way to keep Utah’s electoral votes from going to another party was to put forth a favorite son.

Utah requires a $500 filing fee and a petition with 1,000 signatures for an individual to be placed on the ballot as a presidential candidate in the state. The deadline was August 15th, just seven days after McMullin announced his candidacy. With Republican Party dissension at an all-time high, it’s easy to imagine fears of the Libertarians making sufficient gains to supplant the GOP driving an effort to stamp out the fire in the Beehive State. The only way to keep Utah’s electoral votes from going to another party, either the Libertarians or the Democrats, was to put forth a favorite son. Nobody better fits the bill than Evan McMullin, attractive enough to Utahans to gain significant support but immaterial enough to not be able to harm the GOP nominee elsewhere. And if the national race was close enough, McMullin’s electors would likely be willing to consider changing how they would cast their vote in Electoral College.

In an obvious situation where McMullin should have sued to get on the ballot, he didn’t.

Of the eleven states where Evan McMullin will be listed on the ballot, two of them were considered to be Johnson’s best chances to win. Along with Utah and New Mexico, Colorado is also fertile ground for Johnson where he will now have to compete with McMullin. All of these states have significant Mormon populations. However, Wyoming, another state with a large Mormon population, ruled that McMullin did not have enough valid signatures for ballot access because Wyoming does not allow voters to sign petitions for more than one candidate. In an obvious situation where McMullin should have sued to get on the ballot, he didn’t. But Trump has never polled at less than 53% in Wyoming.

Evan McMullin is being touted as a dark horse to win the presidency. He’s not. He’s a stalking horse, being used to hold back Gary Johnson.


Update: In an interview with Chris Matthews, McMullin was asked where outside of Utah he could hope to have success. He answered that “Idaho and Wyoming are our best chances.” He isn’t on the ballot in Wyoming. The McMullin campaign gathered enough signatures for ballot access, but because many of the individuals who signed the petition also signed petitions for Jill Stein and Rocky De La Fuente who turned in their petitions before the McMullin campaign did, those signatures were invalidated under Wyoming law that only allows an individual to sign for ballot access for one candidate. This was a favorable opportunity to bring legal action to open up ballot access, as McMullin promised he would do. It would seem reasonable that a candidate would be motivated to go to court to be on the ballot in a state they thought they could win. No suit was brought.

Either McMullin was unaware that he isn’t on the ballot in Wyoming, or he is under the entirely unrealistic impression that he could win as a write-in candidate. Regardless of which is true, McMullin is not a serious candidate for president.