Evan McMullin just announced his independent bid for president of the United States in August — but he says his run has already been a success.
Multiple polls have shown McMullin’s support in Utah spike after a recently-released video showed Republican candidate Donald Trump making lewd comments about women.
McMullin, a long-shot third-party candidate, could realistically beat both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Utah during the presidential election on Nov. 8.
Several polls show McMullin within one or two points of Trump in the traditionally Republican state, and slightly ahead of Clinton. A recently released poll from Emerson College gave McMullin a 4-point lead over Trump, and leading Clinton by 7 points.
Part of McMullin’s original strategy included taking enough electoral votes to keep either Trump or Clinton from reaching 270, the minimum needed to be elected president.
McMullin, a graduate of Brigham Young University, has garnered large support in Utah County. An Oct. 5 rally he held in Provo had hundreds of excited supporters taking up every inch of the ballroom in the Provo City Library, and supporters organized an unofficial U.S. Constitution walk in Provo in his honor Wednesday.
Several Utah County leaders have openly supported McMullin, including Utah County Treasurer Kim Jackson, Spanish Fork City Councilwoman Stacy Beck, Orem Mayor Richard Brunst, Utah Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Payson Mayor Rick Moore.
But as Trump’s support has weakened in key states throughout the nation, and it looks less as though Clinton will struggle to reach 270, McMullin said that his main goal of starting a new conservative movement has already been a success.
“(We are starting) a conservative movement that is open to people of all faiths and all races, and is recommitted to the truth that all men and women are created equal,” McMullin said.
McMullin said that under Trump’s leadership, the Republican Party has drifted away from that truth, and by helping increase the size of the federal government, has also drifted away from the cause of individual liberty.
Creating a new conservative movement and a new generation of leadership are important, McMullin said, in part because of racist and misogynistic themes that have crept into this presidential race.
“Here we are in 2016,” McMullin said. “And Mindy (Finn, McMullin’s vice president pick) and I feel like we have to go out and say, ‘No, women are equal, and people, Hispanics are equal. We’re all created equal.’”
Many of Trump’s messages don’t resonate well in Utah, which McMullin attributes to aspects of Utah culture.
“People think of Utah as the quintessential red state,” McMullin said. “Or they say it’s a Republican state. I think it’s a conservative state.”
A number of residents in Utah are practicing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and have served the two-year mission that is common of those practicing the faith. This helps make them more open to people of other countries and cultures, McMullin said.
“And I believe there’s more compassion,” McMullin said. “These are the conservatives we are, and I believe that’s why our message is resonating.”
Neither McMullin nor Finn have hard plans to run for office again the next election cycle, but they agree on one thing: win or lose this election, the movement they have helped create will not end on Nov. 8.
“Whether we are the face, or the leader, we will certainly continue with the movement,” Finn said. “There’s a demand — the movement must go on.”
The question that's raised is exactly what form the movement will take once a president has been decided.
“Do we need to start a new, conservative party?” McMullin asked. “Or do we sort of plug into the reform of the Republican (Party)?”
Finn said that she is skeptical about the Republican Party’s ability to reform quickly, in which case it could be necessary to open up a new vehicle that will be the ongoing body for conservative principles and ideas.
“But right now, all those options are on the table,” Finn said. “It’s something we talk about quite a lot.”