In his moonshot try for the White House, potential independent presidential candidate and 2011 Wharton MBA graduate Evan McMullin must navigate a treacherously narrow electoral path.
McMullin's campaign signalled in a memo on Wednesday that it can only meet filing deadlines in 15 states. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. had not reached their deadline upon McMullin's presidential announcement, but six states closed off their rolls on Aug. 10 with some requirements that McMullin was unlikely to meet. In Alaska, independent candidates must earn the signatures of 1 percent of voters to earn a spot on the ballot.
If McMullin was to compete in Alaska, he needed to have earned over 5,200 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Despite what seem to be insurmountable odds, McMullin has started his campaign with a flurry of publicity.
Since his Aug. 8 announcement, McMullin has been featured in media outlets such as USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico and others. A super PAC, Stand Up America, has launched to support his independent bid, and a website soliciting donations and rolling out grassroots efforts is now live.
McMullin’s team is undeterred by their electoral obstacles.
“The goal is unequivocally to win,” McMullin’s chief strategist Joel Searby told Yahoo News. “It’s clear that Donald Trump had a disastrous week and his support is waning, and we think it’s a great time” for an alternative candidate.
Searby said the campaign intends “to plant a flag” in Utah, Colorado and other western states hospitable to McMullin’s anti-Trump message before targeting more typical swing states, such as Florida.
“The deadline for getting on the ballot has not passed in 15 states and in some cases only requires a minimal number of signatures.” Searby said. Among them are Utah, which requires a mere 1,000 signatures on a petition and may be friendly terrain for McMullin, who is a Mormon and attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate before earning his MBA at Wharton.
Trump leads Clinton by 12 points in Utah, according to a UtahPolicy.com poll released this week. But Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson claimed 16 percent of the voters surveyed, nearly eight percentage points higher than his national average.
McMullin’s plan also includes partnering with "minor parties" that are already on the ballot in certain states, such as the Reform Party, and filing lawsuits to get on the ballot in states where the deadline has already passed, according to a five-step memo released by Searby on Wednesday.
The likelihood of such a ballot challenge to succeed is unlikely, local politics expert and St. Joseph’s University history professor Randall Miller said.
“The problem isn’t so much with the constitutional questions as it is with timing,” Miller said. “The only court that could issue a stay on the presidential election is the Supreme Court, and given both precedent and timing, that’s highly unlikely.” And even if the matter did go to the Supreme Court, it could deadlock given the absence of a ninth justice.
“McMullin’s highest impact will likely be in states such as Utah, where Donald Trump is disliked even among the Republican base, and where McMullin, as a Mormon, has a natural tie to voters,” Miller said. “You could, however, also see an impact in down ballot races, where the Republicans are seeing holding onto the Senate as their primary objective for this election cycle.”
This article was last updated on Aug. 11 at 11:13 a.m.
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