With less than 100 days until the election, the Never Trump movement has fielded yet another independent presidential candidate to keep Republican nominee Donald Trump out of the White House.
This time their candidate is Evan McMullin. Here is what we know about him.
Candidacy Announced by Joe Scarborough
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough broke the news of McMullin’s candidacy, dedicating two hours of his show on Monday to McMullin’s long shot bid.
Scarborough also tweeted the news:
BREAKING FIRST ON @Morning_Joe: Multiple sources say an independent conservative candidate will announce his candidacy for president today.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) August 8, 2016
Multiple sources tell me the candidate is Evan McMullin. Wharton grad, CIA alum, Goldman Sachs, Republican Policy Director, US House
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) August 8, 2016
McMullin’s official website went online this morning bearing what appears to be his campaign motto: “It’s never too late to do the right thing. And if we work together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.”
From CIA to Goldman Sachs to Republican Establishment
McMullin has never held elected office. According to his LinkedIn profile, from 1999-2010, he worked as an operations officer in the national clandestine service for the Central Intelligence Agency managing “clandestine operations related to counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, energy, political stability, and counterintelligence.”
He then went on to work as an investment banking associate for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco for three years.
In 2013, he moved to Washington, D.C. to become the senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and then, two years later, the Chief Policy Director for the House Republican Conference, where he was responsible for advancing the policy agenda of the Republican leadership in the House.
When John Boehner stepped down as Speaker, McMullin wrote on Facebook: “Today we learned that Congress will soon lose a tremendous leader in Speaker Boehner.”
Boehner’s ouster as Speaker was widely celebrated by grassroots conservatives as a victory for the Tea Party movement over the feckless and equivocating GOP leadership Boehner’s Speakership represented.
However, McMullin had nothing but praise for Boehner as “one of the most humble, gracious, and savvy leaders I’ve ever encountered.” McMullin said he was “grateful” for the opportunity “to learn” from Boehner.
Former “Volunteer Refugee Resettlement Officer” and Fierce Critic of Trump’s Position on Muslim Migration
According to McMullin’s LinkedIn profile, he worked in 2001 as a “Volunteer Refugee Resettlement Officer” for the United Nations, where he “vetted and processed UN-recognized refugees from the Middle East and Africa for resettlement to third countries.”
McMullin, who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is also a fierce critic of Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim migration to the United States.
He wrote on his Facebook page: “As Donald Trump continues attacking Muslims and as a former CIA officer, I’d like all Americans to know the truth: American and other Muslims have played a central role in virtually every counterterrorism win we’ve had since 9/11. They are an indispensable asset in this fight. Attacking them as a group makes America weaker, not stronger.”
He has also posted on his Facebook page about the plight of Syrian refugees, linking to an Amnesty International article on refugees and noting: “Sobering facts: Over 50 million people around the world – including 50% of Syrians – have been forced from their homes due to conflicts in the worst global refugee crisis since WWII.”
Brainchild of Rick Wilson and Funded by Romney Donor
Joe Scarborough noted this morning that McMullin has “the backing of key $$ contributors in the Republican Party.”
The candidate revealed by sources has an impressive resume and the backing of key $$ contributors in the Republican Party.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) August 8, 2016
That’s no lie.
One of the key Never Trump figures behind McMullin is none other than “Gollum-in-glasses” Rick Wilson, who last October declared that the GOP donor class must “put a bullet in Donald Trump” to stop him.
Buzzfeed reports: “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.”
As a 501(c)(4) organization, Better for America (BFA) can’t officially endorse a candidate even though it’s supporting McMullin’s bid. ABC News reports that the group “has been funded in part by John Kingston, a Boston-based conservative donor who bundled for Mitt Romney.” Kingston also has ties to George W. Bush and John McCain, according to The Hill.
The Hill reports that “several members of BFA have left the group so they can begin working on McMullin’s campaign or a supporting super-PAC, seemingly putting him in position to benefit from their ballot access work.”
According to The Hill, among those working for McMullin:
Republican pollster Joel Searby and conservative lawyer Mohammed Jazil have resigned from BFA to join McMullin’s campaign, a source said, while ballot access expert Kahlil Byrd and Democratic strategist Ileana Wachtel have left the group to launch a pro-McMullin super-PAC.
Narrow Path to Victory
McMullin’s path to victory is extremely narrow to non-existent. Joe Scarborough noted that McMullin’s long shot campaign “has more to do with stopping Donald Trump than actually electing a president.”
The deadline for independent candidates to get on the November ballot has already passed in a number of states – including Texas with its large electoral count. However, Better for America is perhaps seeking to sue states like Texas to get on the ballot.
The Hill notes that “to get into the presidential debates, a candidate must poll at 15 percent in five national surveys leading up to the three scheduled debates and show that they are appearing on enough state ballots to have a path to 270 electoral votes.”
At this late date, with more organized candidates like the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein struggling to reach the 15 percent margin, it’s hard to see how McMullin will make it onto the debate stage, and without that national platform, his candidacy will remain unknown to the majority of voters.
A Mormon Candidate to Appeal to Mormon Voters in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho
McMullin is a Mormon and a graduate of Brigham Young University. Like Never Trump leader Mitt Romney, who served as a Mormon missionary in France, McMullin also did Mormon missionary work in a Catholic country. ABC News reports that McMullin was a missionary in Brazil, and his LinkedIn profile notes that he speaks Portuguese.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump has a Mormon problem, as his polling in traditionally red states with large Mormon populations shows. The Huffington Post notes that McMullin’s candidacy could have the most impact in three such states: Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.
In fact, the date of McMullin’s announcement comes just in time to make the August 15 deadline to get on the Utah ballot as an independent candidate. Utah’s election laws only require 1,000 voter signatures for a candidate to be included on a ballot – a relatively easy number to achieve.
Glenn Beck’s Never Trump Scheme at Play?
During a July 27 radio interview with fellow Never Trump member Erick Erickson, Glenn Beck and his co-hosts articulated an ambitious scheme to run a third party candidate in red states that are not battleground states for Trump.
The idea, which was explained by Beck’s co-host Stu Burguiere, is to have this independent candidate siphon off enough votes from Trump to keep Trump and Hillary Clinton under the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the race outright, thereby throwing the election to the House of Representatives to decide the outcome, where they hope a Republican House will elect their independent candidate or another person who is not Trump.
They suggested the candidate should be someone like Mitt Romney, but that was only because they couldn’t choose Paul Ryan due to his position as the Speaker of the House. (They assumed that Ryan was the ideal candidate for this scheme because presumably House Republicans would vote for him).
Burguiere matter-of-factly said that “the will of the people is a serious problem with this” scheme because the people actually voted for Trump, but Beck, Erickson and their Never Trump compatriots apparently believe in thwarting democracy to save it from Trump.
Though McMullin is not as ideal a candidate as Romney, he is a fellow Mormon who is hoping to challenge Trump in deep red states with large Mormon populations.
Could McMullin’s long shot candidacy be a part of a more elaborate scheme to keep Trump and Hillary below 270 electoral votes and throw the election to the House? After all, keeping Trump under 270 is a lot easier than winning 270.