Fractures in the Republican Party over the candidacy of presidential nominee Donald Trump and his persistent, offensive, and short-sighted gaffes are colluding to amplify the #NeverTrump movement ahead of the general election in November. As more and more Republican politicians announced they simply can't back the business mogul or Democrat Hillary Clinton, they're scrambling for alternatives. One little-known former CIA agent will attempt to fill the void with his own presidential run, according to reports Monday. Wary, possibly cautiously optimistic Republicans, and even some liberals, are going to want to know who Independent Evan McMullin is, what he's all about, and whether he's a viable contender.
McMullin, whose LinkedIn page indicates he's the chief policy director at the House Republican conference, has not yet officially launched his presidential bid. But sources told BuzzFeed News, which first reported this story, that anti-Trump Republicans are preparing to start his campaign.
In a statement to ABC News, McMullin (who resigned today from his position as chief policy director), said he will also file to run for president today:
In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up. It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us. I humbly offer myself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a conservative choice for President.
CNN reported that McMullin has already missed the filing deadlines in many states, and he will likely have to sue to get on the ballot in some. Still, high-ranking Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan have expressed their reluctance to support Trump (although Ryan eventually did) and others are beginning to flat-out refuse to do so, even though they find Clinton unacceptable as well.
Although Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson could be an option for some of the disaffected Republican lawmakers, he's pro-choice and supports LGBT rights, according to Vox, making him less than favorable to the GOP establishment.
Enter Evan McMullin. He's far from a household name, but he's a staunch, vocal never-Trumper...
...with strong conservative bonafides. The 40-year-old former Mormon missionary has the backing of an issue-based nonprofit called Better For America as well as Republican consultant Rick Wilson and Florida-based pollster and operative Joel Searby, according to ABC News. Like Trump, though, he's never held elected office, but unnamed sources told BuzzFeed News that "serious" Republican donors and fundraisers will back him.
Before he splashed into the political world in a huge way Monday, McMullin's most publicly recognizable accomplishment was perhaps a TEDx Talk he gave about genocide earlier this year:
Before becoming the chief policy director at the House Republican conference in January 2015, McMullin was the senior advisor to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to his LinkedIn page. He's also worked in investment banking, spent more than a decade with the CIA, and volunteered with the United Nations as a refugee resettlement officer.
"Evan has spent his entire career in service to our nation and today he's continuing on that path as a candidate for president — he is running first and foremost out of a deep love for this country, and because he understands the true brand of American leadership that is required to be Commander-in-Chief," McMullin's campaign wrote in a message to supporters, according to CNN.
Last week was an extraordinarily bad one for Donald Trump — he insulted the family of a Muslim soldier who died in Iraq and kicked a mom with a crying baby out of one of his rallies — and he experienced a significant slide in polling numbers against Clinton. Although these missteps weren't at all out of character for Trump, they possibly solidified the aversion many in his own party have for him and maybe showed them that now was their opening to introduce another candidate.
This GOP move feels a lot like a Hail Mary. It's a last-ditch attempt to get a person they can stomach into the Oval Office, but it could backfire. CNN pointed out that McMullin has the potential to pull votes from Trump in Utah, which voted overwhelmingly for Ted Cruz in the primaries. But a split in Republican votes could simply hand the state to Clinton. Could the same be true for the whole of the United States?