A third party presidential candidate that most have never heard of is making Utah a horse race. An Emerson College poll released on October 19th gave Evan McMullin a four-point lead in the state, outpolling both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. After all the early attention given to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, it might just be Evan McMullin who becomes the first third party candidate since 1968 to win a state in the general election.
As of November 1, the FiveThirtyEight polling website gave McMullin between an 18 to 25 percent chance of winning the state. By way of contrast, Gary Johnson is given less than a 1 percent chance of winning in his home state of New Mexico, which has been the only state where Johnson appeared to have a shot at winning.
Clinton running third
Trump has consistently been ahead of Hillary Clinton in Utah, and the state has been considered a safe state for Mr. Trump. But, as Trump stumbled during the debates, Evan McMullin, who up until mid-September had been running fourth in the polls with less than 10 percent of the vote, began to surge. In less than a month, he had gone from12 percent to 31 percent in the Emerson poll, beating both Clinton and Trump, and pulled to within 4 points of Trump in other polls. As October ended, Trump got a boost in Utah and was leading Mr. McMullin by six points.
Who is Evan McMullin
Just who is Evan McMullin? He is conservative and a Mormon, both good qualities to have in Utah politics. Mr. McMullin, who is 40, did not decide to launch a bid for the presidency until August of this year but still has managed to get on the ballot in eleven states. His political background was that he served as chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. McMullin also spent ten years working for the CIA’s directorate of operations and was presumably involved in clandestine missions abroad.
Attacked by Sean Hannity
As his campaign gained strength in Utah, he gained attention from Trump’s organization who realized that he was a real threat to Trump’s lead in Utah. In recent days, Trump supporters have started attacking McMullin.
Who's this idiot that's running third party that's killing Trump out in Utah. Who put him up? What was it? The Bush people? The Romney people? Seriously? Really? You're going to elect Hillary because we lose Utah? What a disaster that would be for the country. — Sean Hannity, The Sean Hannity Show
Trump takes notice
Donald Trump has also recently taken notice of Mr. McMullin, although he claims that until a few weeks ago he’d never heard of McMullin.
The guy [McMullin] takes votes away from me. You know, we're going to win Utah. But he takes votes away from me, this man who I never heard of. Now, if for some reason we lose Utah that could have a very devastating impact on the overall. — Donald Trump
Evan McMullin responded to Trump by tweeting, “Yes you’ve never heard of me because while you were harassing women at beauty pageants, I was fighting terrorists abroad.”
While the odds of Mr. McMullin becoming the first third party candidate to win a state since 1968 appear to be fading with Trump’s late surge, his short candidacy has been impressive. The country may well be hearing more from Evan McMullin in the years ahead.