What makes for a presidential candidate strong enough to take on the two-party system? Well, let’s run down the checklist. A House policy staffer with no national profile at all? Check. Never held elective office? Check. No organization 92 days away from the general election? Check. Major funding? Er … no checks on the horizon. Meet Evan McMullin, whose presidential ambitions are about to take flight.
And yes, you can be forgiven for saying, “Who?” BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins has the scoop:
Key players in GOP’s anti-Trump movement are preparing to launch an independent presidential campaign for Evan McMullin — a CIA veteran and the chief policy director of the House Republican conference — sources close to the effort told BuzzFeed News.
Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based media consultant and outspoken Trump critic, is expected to be involved in McMullin’s campaign. Sources said Wilson was in Washington on Sunday meeting with members of McMullin’s prospective campaign — which includes some who were involved in a group called Better for America, which has been pushing an independent presidential bid.
So who is Evan McMullin? He spent most of his adult life working in the CIA, but has also worked for Goldman Sachs and the United Nations, according to his Twitter bio. He’s not terribly active on social media, either, having sent only 88 tweets as of this morning and collecting 975 followers. Several of his tweets have been critical of Trump, including his most recent tweet sent during the Republican convention:
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
Coppins also points to a recent post on McMullin’s Facebook page that credits American Muslims and others for contributing to “virtually every counterterrorism win we’ve had since 9/11” as a sign of McMullin’s antipathy for Trump. In that, he has much in common with a legion of other #NeverTrump figures on social media. His #NeverTrump credentials are in order, certainly, but it’s not as if he’s been leading the charge to derail Trump before now. David French had more engagement and investment in the effort than McMullin, and a higher public profile, too.
McMullin also has this in common with the #NeverTrump legion: no chance whatsoever to be taken seriously as a ballot alternative in November, if indeed his name appears on even one state ballot. McMullin hails from Utah, a state in which Republicans have been particularly hesitant to support Trump. If McMullin had any chance at all of denying Trump a win, it would be here. And he’ll have that opportunity … if he can rustle up 1,000 validated signatures from registered voters by next Monday’s filing deadline. That will require a ground organization with staff to coordinate the petition effort, especially in making sure that gatherers qualify to submit signatures, and the purchase of the voter database ($1,050) and people on hand to validate the signatures against it.
Now, multiply that by 20-plus states whose ballot deadlines have not already passed. More than half (26) are already closed, including Electoral College-rich states like Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Another seven states and Washington DC will have deadlines pass by the end of this week — including Ohio, California, Colorado, and New Hampshire. That leaves a grand total of 17 states still open next Monday, only five of which have ballot deadlines past the end of this month.
That would be a daunting task for someone with a sterling national profile and prodigious wealth to back an independent run, as well as the legal work necessary to challenge the earlier ballot deadlines. For Evan McMullin, the proposition of launching a presidential bid at this late date is silly to the point of satire. He may just be the only person willing to say yes to a ridiculous idea at this point.