CEDAR CITY – Evan McMullin may not get enough electoral votes to win the presidential race but neither may Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – a chance the independent candidate is willing to take for a bid to the White House.
McMullin made Cedar City a stop on his itinerary Saturday night while traveling through to a rally in St. George.
Speaking to a small group at the Brick House restaurant, the 40-year-old candidate primarily shared his values telling voters he offers a conservative alternative to Trump and Clinton.
“So we never said this wasn’t going to be a challenge, we never denied the fact that what we’re doing is going to truly be an uphill battle,” McMullin’s chief spokesperson, Rina Shah, said.
“What Evan did was launch this because he saw an opening out there and he saw a great many people dissatisfied with the divisive rhetoric Donald Trump is putting out there – the anti-immigrant sentiment, the remarks about people’s different ethnicities, religions, denying liberty, saying people aren’t equal – essentially going against the American Constitution.
“That is what we believe people are looking for. They are looking for a message of unity, for a principled conservative who really believes in the Constitution and all the rights given to us under the Constitution.”
McMullin announced his candidacy for president in early August. A third-party candidate hasn’t won any electoral votes since 1968, but that didn’t stop the former CIA-operative from throwing his hat into the political arena hoping to force the election into a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.
As dictated by the U.S. Constitution, a presidential candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the election. Otherwise, the 12th amendment decrees the responsibility to the House of Representatives. Only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes are considered by the House.
The last and only time Congress has chosen a president was in 1824 when the House voted to elect John Quincy Adams. While Quincy won the presidency, his opponent Andrew Jackson had actually taken in more votes in both the popular vote and Electoral College – the same prospect McMullin believes he can create by stealing enough electoral votes away from his Republican and Democratic challengers.
“This has been our strategy from the beginning,” Shah said. “This race is truly between Evan McMullin and Donald Trump in Utah and that’s what we’re betting on. I think we have a real chance of winning the presidential election if the election gets moved to the House of Representatives. We believe if that happens Congress will do the right thing.
Utah has six electoral votes that could potentially go to McMullin. However, the presidential hopeful still has a fight ahead of him as two new polls released last week place him third in the running behind Trump, who maintains the number one slot and Clinton, who came in second.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, McMullin was born in Utah and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He grew up in Washington State.
While attending BYU, the CIA recruited McMullin to serve as a counterterrorism operative in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Following his time with the CIA, McMullin was an investment banker for Goldman Sachs for a time, congressional staffer and joined the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2013 as a senior advisor. He later became the chief policy director for the House Republican Conference where he was working when he decided to run for office.
His experience in government, the private sector and working for the CIA gives McMullin the insight to understand the issues and the skills needed to run the country, Shah said.
Some of McMullin’s supporters, however, don’t care as much about his background as they do about the values he professes that they believe are similar to theirs.
“I voted for McMullin and it was like a weight off my shoulders. I feel so good about it,” Cedar City resident Dan Jessen said. “If Trump doesn’t win because McMullin took a lot of his votes than hopefully the (Republican) Party as a whole listens up and says, ‘OK we’re not capturing the way certain people in the party feel.’ And Trump isn’t a conservative and he doesn’t represent conservative values and if he gets elected it’s just going to be another four to eight years of Obama.”
Like many other voters in attendance, Jessen added that McMullin allows him to vote his conscience while still voting for a “viable candidate.”
Another voter at Saturday’s meet and greet, who didn’t want to give his name, said he wasn’t sure yet who he was going to vote for but came out to the event to meet McMullin and hear what he had to say.
“I don’t know who I’m going to vote for yet,” he said. “I feel like McMullin leans a little more liberal in some areas than I would like to see in a candidate but I just don’t know and I wanted to hear what he had to say and meet him. I also don’t know how I feel about Trump right now. There’s a lot about him I support but there’s also a lot I don’t and that I struggle with overlooking.”
During the meeting, McMullin touted himself as the candidate who believes in states’ rights pointing to public lands as an example of federal overreach.
McMullin said he favors the states having more control arguing Utah and other states can manage the lands better than bureaucrats 2,000 miles away.
He called for a “new conservative movement” to help counter the current “crisis of leadership in the country.”
“I am committed to advancing the cause of our fundamental principles in this nation,” he said. “I also support the United States Constitution and believe in limited government and states’ rights. The Constitution lays out specifically the role of the federal government and limits its powers. I support that.”
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