Evan McMullin, the relatively unknown third-party candidate and a former CIA agent, is gaining support in his home state of Utah, where Donald Trump has struggled to hold on to support. No Republican has lost the state Beehive State since 1964 and recent polls show that there is a real possibility for Trump to lose it. In a poll released on October 19, McMullin even topped Trump.
On October 11, Deseret News published the results of a poll taken after the second presidential debate of 500 voters. The poll shows Trump and Clinton in a tie. Most surprisingly though, it shows McMullin ahead of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate who has received much more nationwide attention than McMullin. The poll has a plus or minus 4.4 margin of error.
The 40-year-old McMullin was born in Provo, Utah, although he grew up in Washington State. He is a Mormon and Trump has little support among the Mormon population. Indeed, the Deseret News, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, called for Trump to end his candidacy after a 2005 tape featuring sexually graphic comments from Trump leaked. It was the first time in the paper’s 80-year history that it made a political endorsement. The Salt Lake City Tribune published its endorsement for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday.
On October 17, Fox News published the results of a Rasmussen Reports poll from October 15 and 16 of 750 likely Utah voters. This one showed McMullin with even more support for McMullin, although Trump still had a one-point lead.
In another poll, taken by Emerson College and published by the Salt Lake City Tribune on October 19, shows McMullin with a lead over Trump and Clinton. The poll was conducted between October 17 and 19, with 700 likely voters. The margin of error was 3.9 percent.
After the tape leaked, Governor Gary Herbert and House members Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart both announced that that will no longer support Trump.
The new poll also reveals that Utahns do not have a positive view of Clinton either. As for McMullin, although only 52 percent of those polled knew who he was, four out of five who knew of him view him favorably.
If McMullin won Utah’s six electoral votes, he would be the first independent candidate to win any electoral votes since 1968, when Alabama Governor George Wallace won five states. He could also be the first independent candidate to win a state outside of the U.S. since 1924, when Robert M. La Follette, Sr. won Wisconsin.
Despite Trump’s growing lack of support in the state, Utah GOP Chairman James Evans told the Deseret News that he will still support Trump, despite the “emotional” reaction to Trump’s 2005 video.
BuzzFeed‘s McKay Coppins reported on October 9 that some major Republicans in Utah were considering endorsing McMullin. Coppins also noted that ballots start arriving next week and many Utahns vote by mail.
Does McMullin Have a Chance Nationally? Not Really.
McMullin is only on the ballot in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. He can also earn votes as a write-in candidate in 23 states. Voters won’t be able to vote for him in 16 states.
Last week, McMcullin announced Mindy Finn as his running mate. However, Politico reported in September that the name “Nathan Johnson” will appear on the ballot in eight states and it’s too late for him to pull it.