“First of all, a lot of people don’t know who you are,” Hugh Hewitt accurately states as he introduces Evan McMullin, the latest candidate to enter the presidential race even as more than half of the states have closed ballot access to it. McMullin, plucked from Capitol Hill near-obscurity yesterday to be the #NeverTrump option, gamely paces Hugh as he runs through his usual first-appearance vetting questions. Looming Tower? It’s on his list. Alger Hiss? Doesn’t want to offer a conclusion.
More seriously, McMullin does a fine job of introducing himself to a national audience. But what has McMullin done to organize for his thirteenth-hour run? So far, he’s done media … and that’s about it:
HH: All right, then I’ll go with the two recommendations. I think everyone ought to read Hillbilly Elegy to understand Trump’s appeal, which just came out. It’s on the New York Times bestseller list, and Ron Fournier’s book, Love That Boy, to understand how presidents interact with every kind of American, including special needs kids. What are you doing now? I mean, what’s the infrastructure? Who’s your campaign manager? How are you campaigning? What are you doing?
EM: Well, we just launched yesterday as you know. Joel Searby is my campaign manager, and I’ve also got…
HH: Okay, and so are you traveling? Or are you just making phone calls for money, or doing media?
EM: No, I mean, well, it’s been wall to wall media, actually, and also calls to key partners, certainly And that’s not just fundraising. It’s other people who want to be supportive, members of Congress and others, people in the states who are interested in our message about returning more power closer to the people back to the states. So it’s a lot of that, but mostly, it’s been wall to wall media. But we’ll be on some morning shows this morning, and you know, we’re doing a lot of media, which is great. We love it, and it’s a great opportunity to engage with the American people.
That would be a reasonable starting strategy for a campaign — in January or February, perhaps. Staying in DC to make the national-media rounds does help raise a candidate’s profile on launch. But in this case, the election is only 91 days out. At this point, gaining ballot access should be a much higher priority. Hugh asks specifically about infrastructure, and McMullin never mentions anything other than his campaign manager — not even that the deadline for ballot access in McMullin’s home state of Utah is next Monday or his plans to meet it.
The national-media rollout continued on CNN, where McMullin insisted that he was not a “salvo from the right” against Trump. McMullin agrees with Trump, though, that the Iraq War “was a mistake,” which seems interesting, considering the hawks who support this project. He also insists that Trump is already handing the election to Hillary Clinton:
— CNN (@CNN) August 9, 2016
He got a little more specific about ballot access with Chris Cuomo and MSNBC, too:
“There are a multitude of ways to get on ballots in the United States. We’re pursuing all of them,” McMullin said on CNN’s “New Day,” saying his team has spent “months” studying the issue.
“We will be on a broad number of state ballots across the country. We hope to be on all 50, in fact,” he added.
McMullin said on MSNBC that he could petition to get on the ballot in around 20 states, despite deadlines looming or having passed in other states. “We intend to have broad ballot access,” he said.
Maybe they should have spent those “months” having an actual candidate so they could get on the ballots before the deadlines. By the end of this week only 17 states will still have open ballot access, and the organization necessary to meet those deadlines is not insignificant. If McMullin plans on getting courts involved, he will have a steep hill to climb to prove that (a) states don’t have a legitimate interest in an orderly ballot process and (b) that deadlines existing at or before his late entry into the race aren’t arbitrary. Courts are going to ask what kept McMullin from entering the race earlier than 92 days before the general election, and he and his team will have a very tough time answering that question.