Anti-Trump Republicans Get Behind Campaign Of Some Guy Nobody’s Ever Heard Of

The latest desperation bid from anti-Trump Republicans is guaranteed to make a GOP civil war more likely.

Elephants Fighting

The same group of Republicans that spent the better part of the primary season trying to find a way to deny Donald Trump a majority of convention delegates, then moved on to attempting to find someone to run as an independent conservative alternative and/or using the rules of the Republican National Committee to thwart Trump’s presumptive first ballot victory at the convention are at it again. This time, they are apparently getting behind the independent candidacy of a former Central Intelligence Agency employee and analyst in what seems like a last minute bid to make sure Trump doesn’t win the election:

Evan McMullin, a former C.I.A. official and a Republican who passionately opposes Donald J. Trump, will file papers to run for president as an independent candidate, according to two people briefed on his plans.

Mr. McMullin, who until recently worked on policy development with the House Republican conference, has missed the ballot-access deadlines in more than two dozen states.

But Mr. McMullin, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, studied in Utah and could take votes from Mr. Trump in the heavily Mormon state.

In a statement provided by an aide, Mr. McMullin said, “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,” his statement said. “I humbly offer myself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a conservative choice for president.”

Mr. McMullin is said to be backed by the group Better for America, which earlier this year began an effort to get on the ballot in as many states as possible, with the hopes of drafting a candidate.

The group is backed by John Kingston, a donor who had supported Mitt Romney. Mr. Kingston has worked with the pollster Joel Searby. Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant and Trump foe, is the main strategist on the effort.

Polling shows that Mr. Trump’s support in Utah is very low for a Republican presidential candidate, and it has particularly suffered amid his battles against Mr. Romney, a Mormon who was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.

If Mr. McMullin is competitive nowhere else but Utah, he still could nonetheless have an impact on the race: Mr. Trump cannot win the presidency without holding the states that Mr. Romney won, his aides have concluded.

That Mr. McMullin has a national security background makes him a more appealing option, potentially, to Republicans or conservatives who cannot bring themselves to support Mr. Trump, but also strongly dislike Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

More from Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins, who broke the story:

Key players in the GOP’s anti-Trump movement are preparing to launch an independent presidential campaign for Evan McMullin — a CIA veteran and the chief policy director of the House Republican conference — sources close to the effort told BuzzFeed News.

Veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson, a Florida-based media consultant and outspoken Trump critic, is expected to be involved in McMullin’s campaign. Sources said Wilson was in Washington on Sunday meeting with members of McMullin’s prospective campaign — which includes some who were involved in a group called Better for America, which has been pushing an independent presidential bid.

McMullin did not immediately respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News. He would make for an unlikely presidential candidate. He has never held elective office before and has spent most of his career as a CIA officer, according to his LinkedIn page. Young and unmarried, McMullin received an MBA at Wharton in 2011, and after a stint at Goldman Sachs, went to work as a policy wonk on Capitol Hill.

Unlike National Review writer David French, another conservative courted by anti-Trump Republicans to launch a long-shot third-party bid, McMullin has virtually no public profile. He doesn’t appear regularly on television, and has just 135 followers on Twitter. His most high-profile recent appearance seems to have been a TEDx talk about genocide he gave at London Business School in April. He also delivered aspeech in May about the future of the Republican Party.

Even with his small audience, McMullin has been a vocal critic of Trump on social media. On the night of Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, he tweeted that Trump was an “authoritarian” who was seeking to infringe on civil rights.

As things stand, McMullin’s campaign come at a point where the deadline for obtaining ballot access has already expired in 26 states, and where it will expire in an increasing number of states over the coming weeks. For example, the ballot access deadline has already passed in states such as Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. More than a half dozen more states, such as  Ohio, California, Colorado, and New Hampshire, have deadlines this week. By next Monday, there will be only 17 states where it will still be possible to get on the ballot, and twelve of those have deadlines that expire on or before August 31st.  Thus, it would appear that McMullin would come nowhere close qualifying in enough states to earn the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win the election. He also enters the race as a complete unknown and thus likely to face significant problems raising the money necessary to put together even a rudimentary campaign in a handful of states over the coming weeks. Qualifying for the Presidential debates also seems likely to be out of the question absent some surge in the polls that seems unlikely. As it stands, the best-performing third party candidate, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, is still averaging around seven percent in the polls, which points him some eight points short of where he needs to be in the next month or so in order to get an invitation to the debates. Johnson’s task ahead of him is daunting enough, McMullin’s seems as though it would be well-nigh impossible. But then, of course, impossible has been the definition of the quixotic efforts to stop Trump that have been circulating among top Republicans and conservative activists since the late spring.

One scenario that is being suggested today is that McMullin would concentrate his efforts in Utah, a state with only six Electoral Votes but also one of the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012 that Trump must hold on to if he’s going to have any chance at all of winning. Recent polling in the state, though limited, suggests that Trump could be vulnerable there thanks largely to the fact that the overwhelmingly Mormon State isn’t really taking very to Donald Trump. A recent poll, for example, shows Trump barely leading in the state with 36% to Clinton’s 29% in a head-to-head race. In a four way race that includes Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Trump leads with 37%, followed by 25% for Clinton, 16% for Johnson and 1% for Stein. This in a state that John McCain won by 28 points in 2008 and Mitt Romney won by nearly 48 points in 2012, and a state that no Republican has lost since Barry Goldwater got swept away in the landslide of 1964. If McMullin, or Johnson for that matter, is successful in denying Trump a victory there then it will virtually guarantee that Clinton wins the election since Trump’s Electoral College math would then become next to impossible to navigate to victory. If McMullin were able to get on the ballot in other deep red states and split the conservative vote, then he would make Trump’s trouncing even worse, perhaps on a level with the loss suffered by Michael Dukakis in 1988.

In reality, of course, it’s more likely than not that McMullin will have a minimal impact on the campaign at best, assuming he’s able to get if off the ground to begin with. As Ed Morrissey notes, for someone of McMullin’s relative lack of stature to launch a campaign like this, even in just a handful of states, is a daunting task that seems more likely to fail than to succeed. What it is likely to do, though, is make it much more likely that there will be serious fissures in the GOP after what seems increasingly like it will be a significant Trump loss that could very well cost the Republican Party control of the Senate by the time the day is done on Election Night. Trump supporters, who will still be there even after a loss and even if Trump himself doesn’t stick around to lead them, will blame the “establishment” and mainline conservative for failing to rally behind the party nominee. The party establishment and “Never Trump” conservatives will argue that the GOP may have been able to win with virtually any other candidate other than Trump against a candidate like Clinton, an argument that admittedly has merit given polling that shows the public continues to distrust her and view her unfavorably. In other words, a Republican civil war that will likely shape how Congressional Republican interact with the likely President Clinton and the direction the party takes heading into the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election, which at least for the GOP would begin the minute it was clear that Donald Trump had lost.

It’s a never-ending cycle, folks.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pch101 says:

    Republicans have a real talent for complaining. This is just an extension of the kill-’em-with-griping tactic that they use for just about everything else (Emailobamacareghazi, for example), except now it’s being directed toward one of their own.

    This guy doesn’t have to win anything, he just needs to provide opportunities for the anti-Trump crowd to express their discontent.

  2. Andrew says:

    An Ex-CIA person? Never heard of him? Seems pretty darn competent already. That’s more than enough over Trump.


  3. Thor thormussen says:

    There are two choices on the menu. Everything else is just a performance to please your sub-tribe.

  4. CSK says:


    I don’t think the point is winning, and I’m not altogether sure that this guy’s “candidacy” is solely about complaining. You could look at it as another manifestation of the desire of sane Republicans to disassociate themselves from a truly loathsome candidate. They’re quite well aware that HRC will win in November, and a fair number of them are not unhappy with that outcome, so why not publicly demonstrate–and underline–their distaste for Trump?

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I gotta say, Trump is looking pretty weak and low energy even without some random patsy jumping in. Nate Silver’s now-cast has it 95.3% to 4.7%. Five precent? That’s about like playing individual numbers with two chips in roulette. I mean, you might win, but it’ be a fluke.

    Even the ‘stickier’ nowcast gives Cheetoh Jesus a 21.3% chance.

    So, sure, what the hell, give the forlorn band of principled, patriotic Republicans someone to vote for.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Again? Did he putz Bill ‘Wrong Way” Kristol tried to put up ever surface again.

  7. James Pearce says:

    Saw a big burst of stuff about Evan McMullin show up in my Twitter feed. I think I might have to unfollow all those people.

    @michael reynolds:

    Nate Silver’s now-cast has it 95.3% to 4.7%. Five precent?

    That’s the one that was favoring Trump last week wasn’t it?

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: I hadn’t seen that Silver had shifted that far. 5%. IIRC he gave McCain 10%, but after the election confessed he really calculated zero, then added back a 10% ‘geez, what if I’m completely full of it’ manual fudge factor. Wonder what Silver’s Nuts Factor Silver is using this year.

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    Mr. McMullin is said to be backed by the group Better for America, which earlier this year began an effort to get on the ballot in as many states as possible, with the hopes of drafting a candidate.

    “Better looking, better dressed, better in bed…Better!” Jesica Tate explaining to her ex why she’s having an affair with a younger man. Soap

  10. Pch101 says:


    Republicans have figured out that they can reduce a person’s popularity and create wedge issues by creating memes and boogeymen, then beating them to death.

    This is just another way of circulating the NeverTrump message. Rick Wilson must be well aware that this Death By 1000 Complaints tactic is standard operating procedure for his party; this is how they roll.

  11. CSK says:

    @James Pearce:

    I don’t think Silver ever favored Trump to win the general. He might have given Trump at 20% chance at best.

  12. grumpy realist says:

    Didn’t Kristol try this a month or so ago with a NRO writer no one had heard of?

    Maybe the Never-Trumpers are hoping the magic words “C-I-A” will do the trick. Bibbity-bobbity-boo.

  13. CSK says:


    But what’s wrong with circulating the NeverTrump message? Trump is a candidate no one with a shred of decency can support. And for those who don’t care about decency, he’s also a candidate who is abysmally ignorant of any kind of policy, foreign, domestic, or economic (in the macro as well as micro sense); who has zero desire to learn anything, and even if he did, demonstrates zero desire to learn; is almost without question mentally ill; and has no principles. And for those who care about appearances, he’s a churlish embarrassment.

  14. Has anyone tied to McMullin said what the target audience for this campaign is? I can’t think of any right leaning group that is willing to vote third party, but that isn’t already covered by either the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party?

  15. Jen says:

    @CSK: I think one of his “now-casts” right around the Republican convention bumped Trump up to 51%. I remember feeling a bit panicked.

    It didn’t take long for that to change.

  16. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon: My hunch would be the social conservatives who don’t like Trump. They don’t care much for the Libertarian positions on abortion and legalization of drugs.

    If I had to guess, McMullin’s entire role is to give Mormons in Utah someone to vote for.

  17. Pch101 says:


    I’m just noting that it’s a tactic, and it’s usually used against liberals and Democrats instead of their own.

    It’s the same mentality that produces 597 hearings on Benghazi and 1,349 votes to repeal Obamacare, even though they knew that the hearings weren’t going to find anything and that they didn’t have the votes for repeal.

    It’s about maintaining a constant stream of negativity while providing no viable alternatives. That helps Democrats in this particular case, but let’s remember that this same approach will be used against Democrats again, and again, and again.

    It probably didn’t occur to Rick Wilson that this wouldn’t be necessary if the GOP had had a positive message in the first place. The whole party is dedicated to constant whining. The only thing that they stand for is breaking s**t, and now they’re shocked that they have a nominee who likes to break s**t. Chickens have come home to roost, etc.

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce: @CSK:

    Yeah, those reports are referring to the “Nowcast” function of 538, which tells you who would win if the election was held in 30 minutes. Which is to say, it is useless. So yeah, he had Trump winning immediately after the GOP convention, but before the DNC convention.

    Good thing we don’t hold the election in the week in between the conventions, huh?

    I think the real purpose behind “Now Cast” is to simply confuse readers.

  19. @Jen:

    My hunch would be the social conservatives who don’t like Trump. They don’t care much for the Libertarian positions on abortion and legalization of drugs.

    They’re covered by the Constitution Party, which is going to be on way more state ballots than this guy is.

  20. Jen says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Sorry, forgot to address that angle.

    The Constitution Party is theocratic/dominionist. IIRC, Mormons have pretty much been persecuted by that particular brand of Christian, and are likely none too eager to vote that direction.

  21. Pch101 says:

    Also keep in mind that Rick Wilson was a protege of Lee Atwater. He has built his political career on negative attack ads, such as this one against Obama:

  22. @Jen:

    So this is the candidate for socons who think other socons aren’t trustworthy? Talk about your niche candidates.

  23. Eric Florack says:

    @Pch101: what’s going on right now is eventually Charlie Brown gets tired of trying to kick the football knowing it’s going to get pulled away. Can you blame them, really?

  24. Tyrell says:

    @CSK: It looks like Kasich might endorse Trump, and he seems decent.
    I try to get the news from alternative sources: print and radio, not much on the tv. Most of the mainline news networks are bought, sold, controlled, and synchronized. It is mostly moderators hollaring and insulting people. No meaningful questions. Certainly not objective; more propaganda and brainwashing. I never saw Conkrite, Brinkley, Mudd, or Reasoner carry on like that. It is like watching Springer.

  25. Mister Bluster says:

    Could be that former C.I.A. official and Butter for America Party candidate Evan McMullin will be endorsed by these Republican heavyweights.

    50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation’s Security ‘at Risk’

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: If Kasich endorses Trump after what he has said about him up til now, it will show that Kasich is not decent at all.

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Charlie Brown gets tired of trying to kick the football…l

    And he hires an arsonist to burn down Lucy’s house? Dude what are you reading?

  28. Hal_10000 says:

    Ugh. If you’re going to vote Never Trump either vote Clinton or Johnson. Don’t come to us with this whodat.

  29. Franklin says:

    Obviously there’s no path to victory, and sane conservatives already have an alternate vote with Johnson, so I don’t see the point here. My guess is he’s just trying to increase his name recognition for the next cycle. And being against the Hindenburg as it starts to burn is, I guess, being on the right side of history.

  30. rachel says:

    @Franklin: Maybe this group wants to screw up Johnson’s campaign too.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    This is basically a Mormon thing. Mormons despise Trump – showing excellent taste. But Johnson is not their cup of tea – Mormons not all that big on drug legalization. This new guy is Mitt Romney’s creature, a candidate Mormons can feel okay about voting for. It’ll probably still give Trump a win in Utah, but the Mormons will feel better, and let’s face it, if Hillary’s relying on Utah we’re already screwed.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    Might be interesting in Arizona, too, given they’re about 6% Mormon, and more in the GOP. Hmmm. Could help McCain, sadly, given that Mormons in AZ might be less likely to stay home.

  33. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal_10000: I loved that term! “Whodat”. If it isn’t an official word in the dictionary, it should be.

    (And no, I am not going to go by if spell-checker accepts it or horks it up again. I once managed to send my copy of MS Word into gibbering fits by typing in a perfectly legitimate piece of jurisprudence, all in medieval Latin.)

    (P.P.S. “Horks” is also not a word, according to the local spell-checker. Like Trump, it has a teeny-tiny vocabulary.)

  34. dmhlt says:

    This is very enjoyable.
    It’s not that often you see a sinking ship abandon a rat.

  35. Kari Q says:

    I support anything that takes votes away from Trump. Even something as laughably ridiculous as this.

  36. @Stormy Dragon:

    My impression is that CP is a kind of Trumpism-without-Trump: against free trade and against foreign interventions; this guy (specially with his CIA background) could be looking for the classical “fusionist” conservatives – conservatives in social issues, hawks in foreign policy and libertarian in economics

  37. Thor thormussen says:

    yesterday or the day before the NYT laid out how the US president can nuke someone with virtually no restraint–the system was set up that way deliberately because if worse came to worst, there’d be no time to deliberate. Prez calls an ops room at the pentagon and it’s on.

    The high-profile republicans who support him–mcconnel, ryan, cheney, gingrich, etc–are willing to risk 4 years of that just so they can maybe get rich people one last tax cut and a replacement neanderthal on the supreme court.

    Imagine trying to do something important and hard, like get people to understand how severe the invisible global warming problem is, and a big chunk of people can’t see something dangerous and insane when it’s staring them in the goddam face.

    The answer to the Fermi Paradox is that once a group of organisms gets clever enough to build nukes and industries which radically change their planet, they don’t last long enough to make it very far.

  38. Kylopod says:

    @Miguel Madeira:

    My impression is that CP is a kind of Trumpism-without-Trump

    Well, yes and no. It’s paleoconservatism mixed with theocratic Christianity–more Pat Buchanan than Donald Trump. There’s a definite overlap there (and it’s no coincidence Buchanan is among Trump’s staunchest supporters), but the Christian part makes it a little different.

  39. Thor thormussen says:

    The only thing that they stand for is breaking s**t, and now they’re shocked that they have a nominee who likes to break s**t. Chickens have come home to roost, etc.

    Yeah. When you tell your voters for 40 years, gummint always bad, gummint never does nothin right, stupid ol gummint always wastin your money and tellin you what to do.

    When I’m walking around in rural georgia, and i see the 10 billion NRA t-shirts and shirts with confederate flags and “Government isn’t the solution, government is the problem -Ronald Reagan” I think, you wanna know where trump came from? I’ll tell you exactly how you republican-voting morons built that.

  40. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: It’s probably larger now, but when I was in grad school studying English and teaching, the estimate for spell checking vocabulary was about 50 or 60,000 words–roughly the equivalent of a high school graduate’s total vocabulary.