A recent poll has conservative third-party candidate Evan McMullin statistically tied with Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton in the historically blood-red state of Utah. Once an easy win for the GOP, Utah’s six electoral votes seem up for grabs in what has become a three-way race.
The high polling for McMullin, a Libertarian-leaning CIA-vet of the War on Terror, seems to be connected to Utah’s unique demographics. Mormons, predominant in the state, have a long-simmering skepticism of the Republican nominee, and McMullin appears to have become plan-B for many.
Following these results, it’s not impossible to imagine the McMullin campaign—with some help from the media—spinning a strong return in Utah into a nationwide upward swing.
But can enough Americans vote for McMullin to make him a legitimate option for the Trump-wary conservative voters?
McMullin got off to a particularly late start in the cycle (he only announced in early August). Consequently, the anti-Trump hopeful has spotty electoral coverage across the 50 states.
Through alliances with local Independence Party groups and some quick work, he’s on the ballot in 1o states in addition to Utah: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, South Carolina and Virginia. While that toll is impressive for a political unknown who declared with only three months before Election Day, it still only accounts for only 84 potential electoral points out of 538.
When it comes to write-in access, McMullin has been more successful. Residents of Alabama, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin can pen him in. The additional 23 here make him eligible in 34 out of 50 states and put a potential 317 electoral points on the table for his campaign, well clear of the 270 needed to become president.
It’s worth noting that the majority of states where it is possible to vote for McMullin are either trending red or are showing strong leads for the Democratic candidate. That is, while McMullin has the potential to play the spoiler for Trump’s ambitions, it’s highly unlikely he would do the same for Clinton’s. Still, this has been the most bizarre and unpredictable national race in living memory. Nothing seems fully impossible right now.