On Monday, August 8, 2016, Evan McMullin announced his bid for the Presidency of the United States, and America said; “Who?” With little name recognition outside the most wonkish Republican Congressional policy circles, there was never really a chance for the independent candidate to win. In fact, in his announcement “Letter to America,” McMullin hardly mentioned the electoral college, campaign strategy, or his nonexistent chances of winning. It would seem that based on his late entry to the race and the tone of his campaign, McMullin never intended to win in 2016. His sights, however, may extend beyond November 8.
Since announcing, McMullin’s campaign has focused nearly all of its resources on campaigning in Utah, a state so fervently opposed to Trump that it was considered a battleground state even before he announced. The Utah Republican Party is backing Trump, but many of its big-name political leaders are far from toeing the party line. One of the only major names in Utah still standing tepidly behind the Republican nominee is that of Senior Senator Orrin Hatch.
The divisiveness of Trump throughout the State of Utah has had major consequences that will likely extend far beyond the 2016 Presidential Election. The aforementioned Hatch is up for reelection in 2018 and has discussed retiring at that time. Although he has not made a firm commitment, his age will likely play a major factor in his decision – the Senior Senator will be 84 years old in 2018, the oldest member of the upper house.
Let’s be clear: Evan McMullin is not going to be the next President of the United States of America. However, he may very well be the next Senator from the great state of Utah. His popularity and name recognition among Utahns is high, and he has been able to garner plenty of support from anti-Trump establishment figures. Donald Trump is almost certainly not going to be the next President either. If the post-election GOP is able to move on from the volatile ideology of Trumpism and embrace the new, fresh brand of conservatism they aimed for after the 2012 election, McMullin’s star could very well be on the rise.
If Hatch ends up retiring in 2018, there are few better candidates to take his place than McMullin. Born and raised in Utah, McMullin attended BYU – a trait shared by the state’s current two Senators – and has plenty of prerequisite experience. From his time as a counterterrorism agent with the CIA, to his experience as Chief Policy Director with the House Republican Conference, he is well versed in foreign and domestic policy.
He has the experience. He has the support. The only question remaining is this: will he run?