A former congressional wonk, covert CIA agent and Goldman Sachs investment banker has emerged as an eleventh-hour Republican challenger to Donald Trump.
Evan McMullin announced Monday that he would run as an independent conservative candidate for president. Until revealing his campaign, he was a senior policy staffer for House Republicans.
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A virtually unknown figure that has already missed his chance to even vie for an Electoral College majority, McMullin, at this point, can only play the role of a spoiler. He appears intent on it.
“Republicans are deeply divided by a man who is perilously close to gaining the most powerful position in the world, and many rightly see him as a real threat to our Republic,” he said in a statement on a newly established campaign website.
McMullin could impact the race in a few improbable swing states. Reliably Republican states that have either come into play for Hillary Clinton or show signs of being within reach for her this November include Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi and Utah. Of the four, the deadline for independent candidates to apply to get on the ballot has only passed in Georgia.
Analysts, in particular, believe that McMullin will be most likely to impact the race in Utah. Trump has been deeply unpopular in the state throughout the Republican primary, and handily lost the Utah caucus to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). McMullin is Mormon, as are a majority of the state’s residents.
“Given his obvious personal instability, putting him in command of our military and nuclear arsenal would be deeply irresponsible,” McMullin said on Monday, of Trump.
McMullin appears motivated, in particular, by Trump’s Islamophobic ravings and his attacks on Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the parents of a decorated soldier who was killed in combat in Iraq, who hit out at Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Talking about Trump’s response to the criticism and his attacks on Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), McMullin called the billionaire “inhuman” on CNN. He has also called Trump “authoritarian.“
Despite the attacks, it doesn’t seem likely, however, that McMullin is much of an anti-authoritarian himself; or even the slightest bit concerned with the state of human rights, at home or abroad. His CIA service occurred from 1999 until 2010 — a stint that included two terms under the Bush administration, when the agency and the intelligence community was involved in kidnapping, torture and warrantless surveillance – all in furtherance of the expansive global “war on terrorism.”
While policy director for the House Republican Conference, McMullin worked on “foreign affairs, national security, technology, health care, finance, government reform, natural resources, and women’s empowerment,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
McMullin’s work at Goldman Sachs involved “capital raising” and work on mergers and acquisitions, the profile also noted.
Formerly influential Republicans, such as the discredited neoconservative Bill Kristol, have for months been calling for the emergence of an independent right-winger to challenge Trump. Kristol celebrated the announcement on Twitter, in part, by getting indignant at Trump’s description of McMullin as a “Washington insider.”