In an election where both major party candidates are about as likable as a root canal, it was all but inevitable that a number of third party candidates would emerge from the woodwork.
The two you most likely know are Jill “I’m Basically Bernie 2.0” Stein and Gary “The Only Difference Between Me and Classic Republicans Is I Love Weed” Johnson.
But another wildcard candidate has been making quite a few waves lately. His name is Evan McMullin, and he just might become the first third party candidate to actually win a state since George Wallace did it in 1968.
Who is Evan McMullin?
The short answer is that he’s a former CIA agent who spent the last three years advising Congress on national security and foreign policy. The slightly longer answer is that he’s the guy trying to position himself as the leader of a new, more palatable conservative movement.
McMullin shares a lot of the traditional conservative positions that Trump espouses. He’s strongly pro-life, favors lower taxes and less government regulation, wants to repeal Obamacare and says he will strengthen the military.
But he also breaks from Trump — and many other Republicans — on a few key issues. On immigration, for example, he believes in creating a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally.
He also believes in human-caused climate change, and told WBUR that he would, “increase investment in technologies that can help us limit and decrease our carbon emissions.” And while he believes in “traditional” marriage, he also says that people should, “have the free will to make decisions by themselves” (in other words, he likely won’t mess with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage).
On the issue of trade, he deviates from both Trump and Clinton in his support of free trade agreements — most notably the TPP, which both Trump and Hillary have said they would not support if elected.
What are his chances in Utah?
McMullin still has plenty of work to do if he wants to take Utah, but he’s been surging in the polls since he announced his candidacy in early August.
In just the past month, his poll numbers have jumped from 12 percent to over 25 percent, putting him within striking distance of both Clinton and Trump. In fact, one of the most recent polls actually has him leading the two major party candidates in Utah.
McMullin also has two other factors working in his favor. The first is that he’s Mormon, which gives him a considerable advantage in a state where 60 percent of the population shares his faith. The second is that only about half of the people in Utah even know who he is at this point. If he can get those numbers up, there’s a good chance that he could steal the state from Trump and Clinton.
What does he think of his competitors?
McMullin hasn’t pulled any punches when asked about the two major-party candidates. In a recent interview with ABC News, he called Clinton a, “corrupt career politician who has recklessly handled classified information in an attempt to avoid accountability and put American lives at risk, including those of my former colleagues,” adding that she, “fails the basic tests of judgment and ethics any candidate for president must meet.”
When asked about Trump, McMullin said that the business mogul, “appeals to the worst fears of Americans at a time we need unity, not division.” He even took it a step further, saying that, “Republicans are deeply divided by a man who is perilously close to gaining the most powerful position in the world, and many rightly see him as a real threat to our republic.”
What’s the play here?
McMullin acknowledges that his chances of winning the presidency are essentially nil, but it’s probably fair to assume that his candidacy was never really about winning the election.
Trump’s success — in tandem with his extremely controversial rhetoric — has created serious divisions within the Republican party, and many people believe that it could lead to a lasting split in the GOP.
With this in mind, McMullin seems to be establishing himself as one of the leaders of a new conservative movement, one that rejects the xenophobic, anti-intellectual and divisive positions that have, in many ways, been the cornerstone of the Trump campaign.
Whether or not that new movement will ever really come to fruition remains to be seen.