This article has been updated.
The Great White Whale of the #NeverTrump movement may have just been downgraded to a minnow. Evan McMullin never seemed to have even a theoretical chance of winning the presidency even if you looked no further than the electoral college math, but now those hypothetical chances have gotten even slimmer. The major group supporting his efforts to get on the ballot – Better for America – is throwing in the towel and closing up shop only weeks after McMullin took the dive into the election pool. (Washington Post)
Better for America, the group that attempted to entice a #NeverTrump candidate into the presidential race by promising him mass ballot access, has folded after falling short.
“While polling continues to show that the electorate is dissatisfied with both candidates, and believes the country to be on the wrong track, the opportunity for BFA to influence this election cycle has diminished over the summer months, and BFA will therefore end its candidate recruitment and ballot access efforts,” the group explained in a statement.
Launched only after Donald Trump began winning primaries, Better for America did not even play in as many states as 2012’s star-crossed (but well-funded) Americans Elect. But while Americans Elect never found a candidate, Better for America seemed primed for one: Evan McMullin, the former House Republican policy aide now running to give anti-Trump voters a choice.
This is essentially the death knell for a candidacy which never had any legs to begin with. There was a lot that McMullin could do under the current, unsettled circumstances of the political landscape and he exploited what was available to him. The media loves to talk about Republican internecine warfare, so seeing a conservative candidate announce was tempting bait and they gave Evan far more earned media than someone with his lack of campaign apparatus should ever have earned. There are big names opposing Trump out there, and if McMullin had gotten even a hint of a head of steam he could have collected some significant (though not overwhelming) cash to run ads and finance whatever campaign staff he assembled.
But the one thing he couldn’t get on his own or from the media was ballot access. That’s where Better for America came in, promising to get him on the ballot in at least enough states to make a significant impact on the race (in theory). That effort has sputtered entirely. At this point the candidate is still on the ballot in only four states: Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and Utah. In the meantime, as of yesterday, he’s missed the deadline in 39 states plus the District of Columbia. These include Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Do those names sound familiar? Except for a few, they are all of the states which are conceivably “in play” to the point where a third party force might tip the scales one way or another.
This was a fool’s errand from the beginning. McMullin should probably bow out now before he wastes any more money from well meaning supporters.
UPDATE: (Jazz) Immediately upon publication we received some pushback from people close to both Better for America and the McMullin campaign. They wanted to point out that the national entity known as Better for America was a was a 501(c)4 which can not legally endorse any candidate, but various state level entities are forming or have already formed. This includes the “Better for America Party of Arkansas” which has endorsed McMullin.
Returning to my own observations, I’m glad we cleared up the legalities, but I fail to see what this changes. So a group of state organizations will be working to get McMullin on the ballot in states where the deadlines have passed or where they will need a huge turnout and ground game which will likely have very, very little time to ramp up from scratch. Okay, fine. Let’s say that they get McMullin on the ballot in seven more states, almost none of which are key swing states. What’s going to change? Even if you manage to get someone’s name on the ballot, that doesn’t translate into a statewide flood. This remains essentially a two party system (with the exception of Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000 as one of the only exceptions in the modern era). Let’s just say I’ll believe it when I see it.