As Evan McMullin has campaigned in Utah and across the nation, many myths, rumors, and innuendos have been spread by Donald Trump, his supporters, and others are the result of bad or confusing media coverage. I want to clear a few of those up.
Evan McMullin Winning Utah could lead to Hillary Clinton being elected:
This fib was spread by Donald Trump who alleged that, if Evan McMullin won the beehive state, it would mean liberal domination of the Supreme Court for sixty years.
In reality, McMullin winning Utah couldn’t possibly elect Clinton. In fact, it only becomes important if Trump were going to win if he carried Utah. If Trump were on pace to win by a decent margin, such as 276-262 over Clinton with Utah, he would still win 270-262 with Utah’s six electoral votes going for McMullin. If Clinton were to win by even getting the bare minimum 270 electoral votes on the nose, it would not matter whether Utah went for Trump or McMullin, Trump would still have lost. There are not enough electoral votes to go around for him to get over 270 if Clinton reaches that benchmark. So six more electoral votes from Utah wouldn’t help him beat her if the race is that close.
The only way Utah voting for McMullin would affect the outcome is if it leads to Trump and Clinton both finishing under the magic number of 270 electoral votes. In that event, the worst case scenario is 269 for Clinton, 263 for Trump, and 6 for Evan McMullin. The race goes to the incumbent, Republican-dominated House of Representatives, who would then vote for the president again.
There’s a great deal of misconception as to what happens once it goes to the House and how McMullin expects to win. Some imagine the House could vote for anyone once the election ends up there. In reality, they can only vote for the top three electoral vote getters.
One Trump supporter has expressed concern to me on Twitter that Clinton would be elected in the House by all the Democrats voting for Clinton and the Republicans splitting their vote between McMullin and Trump. That concern springs from a lack of knowledge of how this process works, which is quite understandable since the race has not gone to the House since 1824. So allow me to clarify what the process looks like.
In reality, each state delegation gets one vote. So California’s fifty-three representatives and Alaska’s one-person delegation each get one vote. To be elected, a candidate must get a majority in twenty-six delegations. If that doesn’t happen on the first ballot, the House keeps voting until a winner obtains a majority.
McMullin could win because quite a few Republican members of the House have already said they would not vote for Trump. Also Republicans in the House will never vote for Clinton because they would have no future in Republican electoral politics if they did.
In addition many Republican members of the House have said nothing about the race to avoid the controversy. It’s also hard to imagine members who insisted they were only voting for Trump because the other option is Hillary to press hard for Trump when a third option is available and they get as many do-overs as they need to unite. That is so long as party unity isn’t weakened by anyone voting with the Democrats. Clinton cannot obtain a majority in the House so long as Republicans remain united on #NeverClinton. This is true no matter how deeply the vote splits between McMullin and Trump.
The House vote would occur in January, two months after the election. In the meantime, Trump would go to court in the Trump University civil trial. We’d have two months for more information to come out about the FBI Investigation into Mrs. Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Thus we could be seeing December and January surprises about these candidates.
This is an unlikely scenario. It requires a perfect alignment of the political universe. However, this is the only scenario under which a McMullin win in Utah actually affects the final outcome of the election and the result is not a win for Hillary Clinton.
McMullin is a Puppet
This was spread by Trump who labeled McMullin a “puppet” of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. Others have alleged him to be a puppet of Mitt Romney or the CIA as an effort to defeat Trump. Such conspiracy theories can’t be proved, nor can they be disproved to the satisfaction of their paranoid proponents. However, for the rest of us, there are reasons to question these allegations.
The idea of McMullin as a “puppet” or plant for some powerful force is made ridiculous by the campaign’s shoestring budget. If I had the resources of Mitt Romney or Bill Kristol and were running a conspiracy to steal the election from Donald Trump, it would be far better financed. There would be millions in Super PAC funds hitting the airwaves in key swing states. The campaign would be flush with cash from bundlers and big donors.
Instead, McMullin has had the resources only to focus on the Mountain West. The scenario I listed above is the only major scenario in which McMullin is able to alter the outcome of the race . A big reason for this is that his campaign has raised only $1 million through the middle of October, with an average donation of $35. He doesn’t have a huge TV ad budget or a SuperPAC blasting his name on television. Instead of traveling on a private jet the McMullin campaign is flying commercial and often taking their trips on the ground using Uber.
If you want to know why there’s not some grand conspiracy of the Mormon Mafia, or whatever sinister group you’d like to invent, it’s this – the McMullin campaign has only worked because of ordinary people taking action and doing their part in Utah and across the country. So there is no conspiracy. Oligarchs such as those who inhabit these imaginary conspiracies don’t have faith in the decency and dedication of individuals. They have faith in money and the power of political bosses to get the job done.
The same can be said of Mr. Trump who with unintended hilarity suggested Mr. McMullin was getting out the Mormon vote by visiting coffeehouse. That is akin to suggesting that someone was going from saloon to saloon in the northwest to get out the Fundamentalist Baptist vote. Just as Baptists don’t drink, Mormons traditionally are caffeine-free.
Trump compares his big rallies, where he’s a messianic figure all but literally worshiped, to the one-on-one pressing the flesh which is so key to the McMullin campaign. Just like the Grinch was stunned Christmas could come without grand packages or bags, Trump doesn’t see how anyone could be beating him in the reddest state in the nation without big money or sinister dark conspiracies behind the scenes.
There are two ways to view the McMullin campaign. Whether, you agree with them or not , you can view McMullin, his staff and supporters as patriots who are willing to fight for what they believe in, risking their own careers in politics to do so. Or, if you’re the type who sees a big cynical conspiracy behind every action or who wants to play with people who do, you can view it as the most half-hearted, blasé, underfunded attempt to subvert an election in the history of the planet.
Trump is up by 6 Points (or more) in Utah.
The last few times McMullin has appeared on Fox News, hosts have cited the Real Clear Politics polling average for Utah which showed Trump up 6. This isn’t untrue, but it is misleading. The RCP average does show Trump up but the average itself is a flawed picture of where Utah is at right now. The average contains six of the last eight polls, including polls that are three weeks old. Among them is the Y2 Analytics polls that first showed McMullin in contention in a 3-way race with Trump and Clinton at 26% and McMullin at 22%. It also includes two horribly flawed polls as pointed out by Five Thirty Eight.
A CBS/You Gov poll that had Trump leading Utah 37-20-20% over Clinton and McMullin only offered McMullin as an option to those who said they would vote for neither Trump nor Clinton. A Monmouth University survey showed the race 34-28-20% and offered McMullin as an initial option but it asked a follow up question that pushed undecided voters to choose between Clinton and Trump. The flawed, pushy methodology of these polls produced Trump leads over McMullin of +17 and +14 which goes a long way towards the +6 average in the Real Clear Politics polling average.
Four of the five most recent polls out of Utah show Trump leading between 1-3% and the other shows McMullin leading by 4%. However, in recent Fox News appearances, hosts like Neil Cavuto cite an average that include three-week-old polling that makes the race in Utah seem like Trump has a larger lead. It would be easy to blame this on Fox News’ Pro-Trump bias but during a recent appearance on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper cited the stale and flawed Monmouth Poll. Why these networks don’t cite the most recent polls done by reputable polling firms and news organizations in the state of Utah is beyond me, but voters should be aware that the race is closer than the media lets on.
Voting for McMullin is a Utah Thing
Evan McMullin’s campaign is strongest in Utah, but he’s on the ballot in ten other states, and he is a registered write-in in thirty-two others plus the District of Columbia.
Is there any point in voting for him in any of these other places?
I would argue absolutely for several reasons. If you agree with McMullin, vote for him if you’re concerned about voting on principle. Of course, some will worry about effecting the outcome of the election and wanting to be sure their vote doesn’t help elect Hillary Clinton. The idea of strategic voting having some impact on the election even in narrow swing states is farfetched.
In some states, strategic voting is absurd as Matthew Franck noted at National Review. He and his friends had been arguing over Trump v. Never Trump when it occurred that one thing united them. They all lived in states that were going to vote for Hillary Clinton anyway. Which led Franck to ask a key question. Why choose between these two evils?
So why put yourself through the agonies of an afflicted conscience, feeling responsible for a Clinton presidency we know will be horrifying? As for The Donald, his chances look grim nationally, so why go down in ignominious defeat with him, having treated him as the standard-bearer for a party you once respected and called your own? And even if he ekes out a victory, it won’t come from Acela Corridor [blue] states. So vote for Evan McMullin if you can. Write in Dolly Parton! But don’t give either of these malodorous candidates the honor of your vote.
And Franck has a key point. If there’s anything that’s a wasted vote, it’s a vote for Donald Trump in a state where he is guaranteed to lose big anyway, believing he’s a horrible choice to be President but casting a strategic vote for him that literally doesn’t matter. This could also be said to be true in states where Hillary Clinton has no chance of ever winning.
The impactful strategic vote is a vote for McMullin because of the first scenario I wrote about where the election gets thrown into the House of Representatives. If that happens, we’ll go through a conversation in this country. Part of that will be about the popular vote. The more popular votes Evan McMullin gets outside of Utah and Idaho, the stronger his case will be that “he was able to get X amount of votes even with a limited budget.” This is especially true of write-in votes which require more effort. If you vote for Mr. Trump, your vote will be part of the argument why the House should choose him over McMullin.
If you would like McMullin to win in the event that the election goes to the House, then it makes sense to vote for him. Of course, it might be asked if it makes sense to base a strategic vote on a scenario that has a one in a hundred chance of happening. It makes more strategic sense than casting your vote on the far more unlikely basis that your vote will swing your state’s electoral votes.
Evan McMullin isn’t Hetrosexual
This rumor was spread by White Nationalist Trump supporter William Johnston. He was once listed as a Trump delegate from California to the Republican National Convention but withdrew once his background became known. He blasted out nearly 200,000 robocalls to Utah voters that Mr. McMullin is a “closeted homosexual” on the basis that he’s forty, single, and doesn’t have a girlfriend.
It is unusual for a Mormon to be forty and single, but McMullin has his reasons. His life as an overseas undercover operative for the CIA didn’t allow him a social life, let alone marriage. That’s a big part of the reason McMullin left the CIA at age 35. When he returned to the States, he went to Wharton for Graduate School and to high-pressure, twelve-hour days as an investment banker.
For his part, McMullin stated in an August interview that his biggest aspiration in life isn’t the presidency, but to be a husband and father and that he was “working on it.” He also promised, if he was elected President, the country would not be left without a first lady, though he demurred when asked if he had anyone specific in mind.
The allegations are meant to play on LDS voters strong feelings about the importance of having a family. This isn’t the first time people have tried to exploit it for politics. In 1990, the Republican opponent of pro-life Democrat Bill Orton put out a picture comparing him and his family to the then-single Orton. Orton went on to win a landslide victory in the overwhelmingly Republican District. Utah voters didn’t fall for that sort of nastiness twenty-six years ago, and I doubt they will today.