Evan McMullin, the former CIA operative and foreign policy adviser for the House Republican Conference who entered the presidential race on Monday as an independent, is claiming that rather than being a spoiler, he wants to be an alternative for people who don’t like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Although he has missed the filing deadlines for most states, he claims that he will “fight and scrap and crawl all the way to the end.”
In the past 24 hours McMullin has been interviewed by many news outlets including CNN, ABC, and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
“Donald Trump is already losing to Hillary Clinton. I just entered this race yesterday. He’s already doing very badly,” McMullin said [on] CNN. “Trump is weak. Trump is a weak candidate and he is losing badly to one of the most unfit Democratic candidates to appear before the American people in quite some time.”
But McMullin has no clear path to victory.
He has missed the filing deadlines in a majority of states that add up to enough electoral votes to win, according to a Roll Call analysis of the 50 state filing deadlines for independents to gain ballot access. His best chance might be in his home state of Utah, where the filing deadline for an independent is August 15. Before McMullin got into the race, the state was not seen as a safe bet for Trump. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating of the state went from “Safe Republican” to ‘Republican Favored.”
Even if McMullin won all of the states where he can get on the ballot, it would still leave him 40 electoral votes short of the necessary 270 to win the presidency.
McMullin told CNN that he will be on “a broad number of ballots and will still try to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. “We are going to fight and scrap and crawl all the way to the end,” McMullin said.
McMullin told Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that he was entering the race out of “deep concern about Hillary Clinton and her belief that she is unaccountable to the American people” and his contention that “Donald Trump is dangerous for our country.”
I think he makes us weaker, not stronger. And I think Americans deserve a better choice. I think they deserve leadership that puts the country before themselves, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump fit that description. So the American people are hungry for this. They’re calling for this. The negatives on both of these candidates are so high. Such a small percentage of the electorate has supported them with their vote. This country is calling for new leadership, a new generation of leadership, I believe. And that is what this is about. We are in it to win it. We are going to fight and scrap and claw until the end. And we believe that we are going to rally the support of Americans across this country who believe that it’s time for something better, finally.
McMullin told Hewitt that he made the decision to run on his own.
It’s not, let me tell you, Hugh, I hoped for months that somebody else would step forward, and I had some names in mind, major conservative elders. I hoped that they would step forward. They didn’t. As we entered what is the last phase of this election cycle, the general phase, I grew concerned that the time was quickly, the window was quickly closing for any kind of possible alternative bid, credible, conservative alternative bid. And knowing that I had some unique experiences that line up directly with the challenges, the primary challenges that this country faces, security, job opportunities and government reform, I could no longer stay on the sidelines, and I felt compelled to act.
Hewitt pointed out that a large slice of the Mormon world would not vote for Donald Trump because he is not an evangelical. “I immediately assessed your campaign as running to win in Utah, Idaho, possibly Arizona, Colorado and the rest of the Mountain states, thus denying Donald Trump the 270 necessary electoral votes to win, while he might deny Hillary Clinton the necessary 270 electoral votes to win,” Hewitt said. “Is that a fair assessment of your campaign?”
McMullin denied that it was.
“I am deeply troubled by both of these candidates. I believe they’re both horrendous options for this great nation,” he said. “And we are in it to provide an alternative to both of those candidates to Americans, especially those who feel so disaffected by these options and by the divisiveness of their rhetoric. Our country needs better leaders, needs leaders that put the nation ahead of themselves, leaders that unify us. We are stronger, it is absolutely true, it is a real thing that we are stronger when we are united. And I believe we can be united through universal, the universal founding ideals of this nation. Those are neither conservative, they are embraced by true conservatives, but I believe they’re neither conservative nor, you know, partisan in general. These are universal truths.”
Hewitt persisted, “But as a practical matter, you’ve missed filing deadlines in enough states that I don’t see how you could even get to 270, if, you know, lightning struck. I do see you winning a few states. Whatever resources you have, whatever super PAC funds, wouldn’t it make the most strategic sense to strike at those states where you can actually win a majority, and they are Mountain West states with a large Mormon population that is, you know, just simply estranged from Donald Trump’s approach and style?”
Said McMullin: “Well, it’s certainly true, Hugh, that we will compete in states that we find most advantageous to us, especially. We intend to compete nationally in certain ways, and be very focused in others. And so yeah, I mean, of course we’ll make those kinds of judgments, but it’s the Mountain West, but it’s not just the Mountain West. There are other parts of the country that are deeply opposed to the kinds of options being offered. And we hope to offer a better alternative.”
McMullin is hoping to garner 15% support so he can qualify for the debates, where he thinks he has an advantage over the other two candidates.
“I would absolutely, absolutely love to be on that debate stage and to be able to engage with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton directly,” he said. “I think they’re definitely not going to want that. They’re not going to want an ex-CIA officer up there pointing out their, the way they weakened this country. They’re just not going to want that, but we’re going to fight so that we can get on that stage.”
Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, the Florida-based media consultant and outspoken never-Trumper who is one of the GOP operatives reportedly behind the McMullin effort, meanwhile wrote in an oped in the New York Daily News Sunday that Trump needs to be “beaten like a drum” and “suffer a humiliating defeat” so that his “poisonous demagoguery” doesn’t ever threaten the republic again. Although Wilson’s screed was written the day before McMullin announced his candidacy, it seems to suggest that as far as he’s concerned, the effort is more about helping Clinton beat Trump by an even wider margin than offering a viable alternative.