Another Choice for President…But Don’t Get Too Excited

lavarr policy insightsChoices are increasing for Utah Republicans who don’t like Donald Trump. Never Trumpers could already choose Libertarian Gary Johnson. And now another option exists with the announcement that Utah native and conservative Republican Evan McMullin is running for president.

Johnson is pulling 16 percent of the Utah vote, according to the latest poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. That’s pretty good, and it shows a lot of Utah Republicans won’t vote for Trump.

McMullin, a complete unknown, worked for the CIA and the House Republican Conference. He could be attractive to many Republicans who don’t believe Trump is a real conservative and who won’t vote for a Libertarian.

Both Johnson and McMullin have to overcome the pragmatic concern that a vote for one of them makes it more likely that Hillary Clinton will become president. A lot of Republicans who don’t especially like Trump still prefer him over Clinton.

But the hardcore Never Trumpers won’t vote for him, on principle, no matter how much it might help Clinton.

Personally, I’m not a big Johnson fan. He was governor of New Mexico when I worked in the Utah governor’s office, and I saw him frequently at various governors’ meetings. He was unorthodox in those days, vetoing hundreds of bills in New Mexico, and taking positions I thought were somewhat irresponsible.

I also don’t like a lot of his current policy positions. Too Libertarian. And I don’t think he has the substance to be president of the United States.

McMullin faces even longer odds than Johnson to make an impact on the race. Why couldn’t the Never Trumpers find someone who is at least known nationally? Why start with only three months to go? I’m sure McMullin is a smart guy. I probably agree with most of his policy positions. I suspect he has some significant money behind him – wealthy people who just can’t stand Trump. He also has people looking at ways to get on the ballot in many states. 

But he’s likely to be just an asterisk in the 2016 presidential race. Despite getting some interviews on the cable news networks, he’s not going to get in the debates, and unless he can raise many millions of dollars and be really competitive in at least a few states, he’s not going to get much attention.

Johnson and McMullin may hope to prevent either Clinton or Trump from getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win, tossing the election to the House of Representatives. But that’s a very tall order, especially if Clinton rolls to a big win, which appears likely.

Having said all that, I’ve been wrong about most things in this presidential year, so don’t bet on my predictions.