Ironically for McMullin, to have a shot at being chosen by the House of Representatives in a contingent election, he would need Trump to improve and win some key swing states where he’s currently polling badly. (Right now, the consensus among “pro pollsters” compiled by 270towin.com gives Hillary Clinton 262 likely electors, meaning she’d need just eight more from the 85 “toss-ups” and 38 “likely GOP” electors McMullin hopes to compete for). That would undermine a key premise of McMullin’s messaging, namely that Trump is the one giving the election to Hillary Clinton, his standard reply to those accusing him of doing just that.
Trump or McMullin would need to not lose a single likely GOP state and nearly sweep the swing states—able to afford to lose only New Hampshire or Iowa—in order to keep Hillary Clinton under 270. Unless McMullin can put states that are currently leaning toward Clinton in play, like Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, or Oregon, his presence makes it no more likely that Hillary Clinton won’t be the next president of the United States.
McMullin is no fool. He knows he’s late to the campaign and much of his on-camera exuberance must stem more from a feeling of moral righteousness than from real electoral optimism. He’s commented in several interviews that he, like many others, was waiting for a more prominent principled conservative to step up as the Trump alternative, but when he saw the door closing and no one stepping forth he felt compelled to do so himself.