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Skepticism greets long-shot presidential bid

House staffer Evan McMullin is unknown even on Capitol Hill

Evan McMullin Handout

Skepticism greets long-shot presidential bid

WASHINGTON—A Capitol Hill staffer has launched an independent bid for president, but even those desperately looking for another option in November are expressing skepticism of his legitimacy.

Evan McMullin on Monday resigned from his position as the House Republican Conference policy director and announced he would run a conservative campaign for president. In a statement posted to his website, the 40-year-old said “time-tested principles” such as limited government, value for all human life, and understanding “the crushing danger of our unsustainable national debt” have no champion in this election.

“We have been left with two candidates who are fundamentally unfit for the profound responsibilities they seek,” wrote McMullin, who was a Central Intelligence Agency officer from 2001 to 2011. “Those of us who care about the strength of the military and intelligence services find little to embrace in either [Donald] Trump or [Hillary] Clinton.”

McMullin, a Mormon, is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He briefly worked for Goldman Sachs before becoming a senior adviser for national security issues for the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2013.

A band of “Never Trump” Republicans has worked for months to recruit an alternative to the bombastic real estate tycoon, looking to politicians such as former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., or conservative author and lawyer David French. Although still ongoing, those recruitment efforts have so far proved fruitless.

McMullin’s candidacy largely came out of nowhere. He’s not well-known on Capitol Hill: Several Republican staffers I spoke to had never heard of McMullin and suspected his quirky campaign may be an exercise in self-promotion.

In the 24 hours after McMullin’s announcement, his Twitter following swelled from 125 to more than 32,000 as he received coverage in virtually every major news outlet.

A new Super PAC called “Stand Up Together” immediately formed to support McMullin’s bid.

“Evan McMullin is the candidate American voters have been asking for—a patriot who has served his nation honorably, an independent who places loyalty to America over party loyalty, a mainstream conservative who believes in classic American values,” said Kahlil Byrd, the organization’s co-founder.

Radio host Erick Erickson, one of the most prominent “Never Trump” conservatives, said he would consider voting for McMullin, who “appears to be principled,” but he’s not convinced the upstart candidate will be able to get on the ballot.

“If he does not appear to be intent on winning, as opposed to throwing the process to the House of Representatives, I think I’ll continue with my plan to write-in for Peyton Manning,” Erickson told me in an email.

McMullin has already missed the filing deadlines to gain ballot access in states accounting for the majority of electoral votes.

Kyle Kondik with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics views McMullin as a “very minor” player in the presidential race. He said McMullin’s best chance to “make some noise” would be to get on the ballot in Utah, a deeply Republican state where many dislike Trump.

“While Trump remains a favorite in Utah, the combination of McMullin and [Libertarian candidate] Gary Johnson could deprive Trump of votes and perhaps even allow Clinton to win the state with a plurality,” Kondik said.

J.C. Derrick J.C. is a former reporter and editor for WORLD.


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