Evan McMullin: Who he is and how he can win
Eddie Damstra | Wednesday, November 2, 2016
As Nov. 8 approaches, I am preparing myself for a terrifying nightmare: a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency. However, I also am doing some praying. I am praying for an absolute miracle. You see, while it is very likely that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president, it is not at all an absolute certainty. There is a — albeit small — chance that another person could be the next leader of the free world. This person’s name? Evan McMullin. Who is he? How can he be president? Allow me to explain.
Evan McMullin is a 40-year old ex-CIA operative running as an independent. He has also worked at Goldman Sachs and has served as a senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was the chief policy director for the House Republican Conference before resigning to run for president. He is a devout Mormon, principled conservative and the new de facto face of the Never Trump movement. But most importantly, he is the only person who has a shot at beating Trump and Clinton.
In American presidential elections, the end goal of a candidate is to win the majority of electoral votes. A candidate must win 270 electoral votes in order to win a majority and the presidency. Each state’s number of electoral votes is equal to the number of Congressional representatives for that state. Every state, except for Maine and Nebraska, utilizes a winner-take all system, meaning if a candidate wins the plurality of the popular vote in a state, he or she receives all of the electoral votes for that state. Maine and Nebraska use a proportional system, in which two electoral votes are given the the winner of a plurality in a state, and one electoral vote is given to the winner of each district. Thus, Maine and Nebraska are the only two states where electoral votes can be split up between candidates.
Obviously, Evan McMullin will not win a majority of electoral votes. He is only on the ballot in 11 states, with registered write-in status in 32 other states. Rather, McMullin must rely on no candidate receiving a majority of electoral votes. In such a case, per the 12th Amendment, the election will be thrown into the House of Representatives where the president will be chosen from top three electoral vote-getters. This is the path to McMullin’s victory.
The process of McMullin winning can be broken down into three parts. Part one is winning the state of Utah. McMullin has been polling very well in Utah — in fact, many polls have him in first place in the state. This is not overwhelmingly shocking considering McMullin was born in Utah, is a principled conservative and is a devout Mormon. The significance of his success cannot be overstated, however: he has the potential to be the first non-major party candidate to win a state since 1968. If McMullin does end up winning Utah and its six electoral votes, he at least gives himself a shot at making things interesting. If he does not win Utah, he has zero chance at the presidency.
The second part of the process is somewhat out of McMullin’s control. The race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has to be a close one. In order to force the election into the House of Representatives, McMullin has to root for both Trump and Clinton to fail at receiving 270 electoral votes. Winning Utah would take six electoral votes away from Trump, assuming that Trump would win Utah if not for McMullin. However, winning Utah is meaningless if, as many pundits have predicted, Clinton beats Trump by a landslide. The only way neither candidate will receive 270 electoral votes is if the race is very close.
In order for the race to be close, Donald Trump has to win multiple battleground states. For example, if Donald Trump wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire, he would have 264 electoral votes, if we assume McMullin wins Utah. In this scenario, Clinton would have 268 electoral votes. In such a situation, the election would move to the House of Representatives because no candidate received the necessary 270 electoral votes. There are a number of other scenarios that can produce such an outcome, but they all require Donald Trump to win key states to keep Clinton from running away with the election. And while it still seems as if Clinton will win a majority of electoral votes, the recent developments regarding new investigations into her emails will surely tighten the race to some degree.
The third part of the path to a McMullin victory is winning the election in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives, which also will have been elected on Nov. 8, will likely remain Republican albeit to a lesser degree than it is now. Given a majority Republican House, Clinton would essentially stand no chance. However, Trump would probably not have a much of a shot either. Many Republicans, including numerous members of the House, have a strong distaste for Trump and would refuse to vote for him. Similarly, no Democrat would want to see Donald Trump in the White House. The most logical resolution would likely be to pick Evan McMullin, given that many Republicans will favor him and all Democrats will prefer him to Donald Trump. Therefore, this third step of the process could very well be the easiest part for McMullin. The problem is that getting to this stage is incredibly unlikely. Nonetheless, none of this is out of the realm of possibility.
With all this said, it is obvious that the path to victory for McMullin is supremely complicated and highly improbable. However, I will still be voting for him. Who knows, maybe some day I can tell my kids I voted for the guy that pulled off the biggest political upset in American history.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.