The latest polling information to come out of Utah—probably the single most culturally conservative and reliably Republican state in the country, with the possible exception of Oklahoma—yesterday was pretty astounding. As Erick noted:
New polling [in Utah] shows a three way statistical tie between Clinton, Trump, and Evan McMullin. More accurately, McMullin is at 22% in the state with Clinton and Trump tied at 26%. That is all within the margin of error, so statistically a three way tie.
A lot of people on social media are a bit perplexed why it is that Utah, of all states, seems to be leading the conservative anti-Trump brigade. Senator Mike Lee—who literally no one with a functioning brain could ever plausibly accuse of being a GOP establishment-aligned squish—posted a remarkable video to his Facebook feed last Friday, calling for Trump to step aside. Many other notable Utah Republicans, such as Governor Gary Herbert, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and Rep. Mia Love, have all similarly come out swinging against Trump since the latest
revelation reminder that the tangerine con man is a lascivious braggart and a self-admitted sexual assailant.
Trump’s poll numbers in Utah were very shaky well before Brigham Young University-educated, Utah native Mormon Evan McMullin declared his presidential candidacy. As I noted in July, it actually makes all the sense in the world why Mormon and Jewish conservatives would be the ones to lead on this particular fight:
“We can get into the fact that [Trump] accused my best friend’s father of conspiring to kill JFK. We can go through the fact that he’s made statements that some have identified correctly as religiously intolerant. We can get into the fact that he’s wildly unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church. A people who were ordered exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838. And statements like that make them nervous.”
Amen. It brings to mind David Ben-Gurion, the George Washington of the modern State of Israel, who once said that, “There are no people in the world who understand the Jews like the Mormons.” For both Jews and Mormons (and frankly, also anyone else with a healthy fear of authoritarian tyranny), Trump’s indubitably anti-rule of law/proto-fascist/strongman tendencies take on an acutely worrisome feeling.
It probably is not a pure coincidence, therefore, that the Mormon McMullin chose a Jewish woman to be his vice presidential running mate. Nor is it a pure coincidence that religious liberty/conscience protection is one of the most popular recurring themes of the McMullin campaign.
Anyhow, the upshot is that native son Evan McMullin has a legitimate chance to win the Electoral College votes from the state of Utah. One substantial problem for McMullin, however, is that Gary Johnson is also doing pretty well in the state. In the Utah poll yesterday that had McMulin at 22%, Johnson came in at 14%.
The situation in Gary Johnson’s political home state of New Mexico, moreover, is not all too different. A recent Albuquerque Journal poll there has Johnson at 24% statewide. However, New Mexico happens to be one of the now-only eleven states where McMullin is not only a certified write-in candidate, but actually appears on the ballot.
For those of us who who still sometimes wake up sweating in the middle of the night over the way Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio could not reach a unity ticket in the primaries in time to prevent the “alt-right” oafish
golden orange calf from emerging as the GOP’s nominee, the current situation in Utah might appear lamentably familiar.
It should be incredibly obvious, at this point, what needs to happen, but I will lay it out explicitly. Neither Evan McMullin nor Gary Johnson has any shot at winning the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become President of the United States in the most constitutionally straightforward manner. Instead, the only chance either has is if all presidential candidates are held under 270 Electoral College votes, and then, a la the election of 1824, the U.S. House of Representatives gets to select the next President from amongst the top-three vote-getters in the Electoral College. Since the House is currently dominated by Republicans and led by a rather anti-Trump Speaker in Paul Ryan, truly anything would be possible at that point.
But first, we have to get to that point. To be clear, it is extremely unlikely. There is perhaps only an infinitesimal probability of a House vote happening. I frankly predict that Hillary Clinton will win more Electoral College votes on November 8 than even Barack Obama won in the landslide presidential election of 2008. That is what Republicans get when they proffer possibly the single most catastrophically unfit-for-office charlatan to ever receive the nomination of a major political party in the history of the republic.
But shouldn’t we sane, anti-Clinton, anti-Trump conservatives at least try to maximize the chances of making that historical House of Representatives vote happen?
Utah is a traditional GOP state. If McMullin wins, that is six Electoral College votes peeled away from Trump. New Mexico has gone from a purple to blue state, so Johnson winning there would peel away five Electoral College votes from Clinton.
There is historical precedent for something closely akin to this. Again, let’s look to the 1824 model, as Brian detailed in May (my own emphasis in bold):
So what’s the playbook for conservatives this year? 1824. In the presidential election of 1824 the two major candidates were Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Two other serious candidates with regional appeal joined them: William Crawford and Henry Clay. In an ironic twist, all four were members of the same political party, the Democratic-Republican Party.
The McMullin and Johnson campaigns need to coordinate on this immediately. The Johnson campaign should immediately withdraw all resources—including its ballot access—in Utah. Similarly, the McMullin campaign should immediately withdraw all resources—including its ballot access—in New Mexico. To the extent either campaign sees another state where there is a possible opening to preclude both Clinton and Trump victories, the two camps will need to take similar coordination actions and unilaterally disarm as the various states’ polling may indicate.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do not claim to be neutral on the specific issue of McMullin versus Johnson. I have openly endorsed Evan McMullin, and have explained why I think Gary Johnson is a bad candidate. Importantly, however, I do not see how my personal preference there is at all germane to any of the foregoing analysis.
Again, to be clear, this is likely all for naught. I would be genuinely surprised if Clinton wins fewer than 320 Electoral College votes on November 8. But, at minimum, the symbolic heft of a third-party/independent candidate winning a state in this dumpster fire of an election is highly significant. And, in an ideal scenario, we get to send the election to the House of Representatives for one of the most dramatic votes in the history of the nation.
The McMullin and Johnson campaigns should waste no further time. Appeal to your senses of selflessness and patriotism, get each other on the phone, and immediately hash out a deal.