McMullin, a national security expert hailing from Utah, has ties to a number of conservative groups and politicians. From his work as a CIA operative to that of advising Republicans on Capitol Hill, McMullin has established foreign policy chops. He is also a socially-conservative Mormon, thus representing two policy areas where conservatives are particularly suspicious of Trump.
A #NeverTrump Republican, McMullin is clearly trying to channel the conservative protest vote, not win the election outright. He believes the election is already lost, and seeks to provide conservatives with someone they can vote for in good conscience. Initial reports conclude that McMullin will be able to get on 20-30 state ballots.
Drudge Report, long the best circulator of breaking and compelling news, has no mention of McMullin’s entry into the race—but that is to be expected considering Drudge’s capitulation to the Trump machine this election cycle. RealClearPolitics.com (“RCP”) is not carrying McMullin’s bid either, though RCP carries the best articles and biggest political news items each day. While McMullin is garnering quite a bit of publicity, the lack of overall interest highlights the uphill climb that McMullin faces to even register in the polls.
What could further propel McMullin into the national spotlight? First, he can win the loyalty of National Review and other flagship conservative publications. He started wooing NR this morning. Second, he can secure the endorsement of several #NeverTrump politicians. Mitt Romney could help propel McMullin onto the national stage, while any of the Bushes would lend legitimacy. An endorsement from Ben Sasse, the most resolute and courageous of the #NeverTrump crowd, would help, as well. Perhaps the two most important endorsements to seek would come from John Kasich and Ted Cruz, who could then launch sizable insurgencies amongst moderate and conservative Republicans, respectively.
If McMullin can even be partially successful in these regards, then he will have the podium from which to convince conservatives and center-right voters that voting their conscience is more important than voting for Trump. Already, McMullin is declaring the GOP cause to be a lost one in this presidential election. If other Republicans conclude likewise, he could receive a windfall of support.
Another advantage to McMullin’s candidacy would be his re-introduction of a number of conservative principles into the national discourse. Several false narratives—especially in the realm of foreign policy—have been expounded by both the GOP and Democratic nominees for president. Disagreement on certain fundamental issues is perfectly acceptable, but when a monopoly exists in favor of falsehood, that monopoly must be broken.
Currently, such a monopoly reigns over issues like the initiation and prosecution of the Iraq War, the necessity of NATO and other alliances, and the sacrifices many Muslims—both American and foreign—have made for the American cause in the War on Terror. McMullin can remind the American people that the most recent wars were worth fighting and that we must steel our resolve for future conflicts as well.
There is also a host of domestic issues where McMullin can re-plant the conservative flag in the field. Let us hope that he does so and, in the process, reintroduces ideas and principles into a demagogic contest.