Evan McMullin is a new independent presidential candidate
His strongest state is likely to be Utah, where he went to college
Conservatives fighting against Donald Trump’s White House bid recruited a little-known congressional aide and former CIA operative to jump into the fray on Monday.
Evan McMullin seeks to provide conservatives and Republicans who don’t want to vote for Clinton or Trump another alternative, in addition to Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, who sits at about 10% in recent polling.
Here’s why he could be worth watching during the final three months:
A Mormon from Utah
McMullin is Mormon, born in Provo, Utah, who attended Brigham Young University, which is owned an operated by the LDS Church. The 40-year-old also served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil. These roots will likely boost him in Utah, which is about 68% Mormon. In the state’s primary contest Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee who is also a Mormon, threw his weight behind Ted Cruz, who won easily – Trump finished third with only 14%.
McMullin’s campaign emphasizes that he is plugged into the church power structure, which could be useful with fundraising. Some anti-Trump conservatives have been buzzing that Romney could come out and endorse McMullin – but there’s been no clear indication yet that will happen.
In a close race between Clinton and Trump, a strong McMullin showing in Utah could help put the state’s six Electoral College votes into Clinton’s column.
Until Monday, McMullin had been working as a congressional policy aide for the House Republican Conference. Not exactly a top-level job in Washington, but he had a fairly distinguished career before jumping into politics.
According to his campaign biography, McMullin was in training for the CIA in Langley, Virginia on September 11, 2001. After he finished training he went to work in counter-terrorism operations. He left the CIA in 2011 to work as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs.
Rick Wilson, a Tallahassee, Florida-based Republican consultant and anti-Trump leader, recruited Evan McMullin into the race. But other so-called “NeverTrump” conservative groups say they don’t know anything about him.
Representatives from “Conservatives Against Trump” and the “Free the Delegates” movement said Monday they did not know anything about him and questioned how serious the effort could be.
“We are currently trying to evaluate him and his candidacy,” said Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, a spokeswoman for “Conservatives Against Trump.”
Other anti-Trump efforts within the party have faltered due to lack of organization, coordination, funding and a broadly appealing candidate.
NeverTrump’s last stand
McMullin faces tremendous logistical hurdles to run a competitive race against Trump and Hillary Clinton, in terms of ballot access and fundraising. And the anti-Trump forces don’t have a great track record, so far failing to derail Trump in the primaries and at the GOP convention.
But McMullin made the case for his candidacy via his campaign website, by slamming both major party candidates.
“Hillary Clinton is 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,” McMullin wrote.
He added: “Donald Trump appeals to the worst fears of Americans at a time we need unity, not division. 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.”