Long the thought that came after the afterthought of the 2016 presidential campaign, independent conservative Evan McMullin now has a chance to make his mark in the race — thanks in large part to a leaked tape of Donald Trump talking about sexual assault.
Trump’s lewd tape appears to be cutting into his standing among social conservatives, nowhere more so than in Utah, where the Mormon faith holds sway and tolerance for the latest revelation of Trump’s lasciviousness has pushed his already strained relationship with state Republicans past the breaking point. That, combined with a broad rejection of Hillary Clinton, is good news for McMullin.
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McMullin, a former Capitol Hill and CIA staffer who’s running a barebones campaign as a conservative alternative, not only grew up in Utah, he has made the state the focus of his campaign.
It’s paying off. While McMullin is almost unknown nationally and on the ballot in only 11 states, a new poll released Wednesday by Utah-based Y2 Analytics found McMullin with 22 percent support across the state. That’s just behind Trump and Clinton, who were tied at 26 percent, and ahead of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson’s 14 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s 1 percent. (Trump’s campaign did not return a request for comment on the poll results.)
It’s just one poll, but it’s enough for Utah’s political insiders to take notice.
“I’ll make a prediction: He’s going to win the state,” said Dave Hansen, a political adviser to Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), on Wednesday. “I think people don’t want Trump and they don’t like Clinton out here, and he is kind of the unknown, but people like him. He’s a safe place to go to cast their ballot.”
Utah only has six electoral votes and is highly unlikely to matter for the overall outcome. But if Trump did fail to win Utah, it would be the first time since 1964 the GOP candidate didn’t win Utah.
If McMullin did win Utah, there is a very slim chance he would become President. It would require Trump to recover in the polls and come so close to Clinton that neither of them get 270 Electoral College votes.
Then the election shifts to the House of Representatives who have to choose between the top three candidates. Each state delegation gets one vote and Republicans control 33 of the 50 delegations.
The Republican would not choose Clinton. And in a choice between Trump and McMullin, I’d say most would go for McMullin!
But very unlikely that it will be close enough between Trump and Clinton. Currently Trump is projected to get under 200 Electoral College votes.