The Never Trump movement finally found its candidate—or, I suppose, a candidate. Evan McMullin, a former CIA counterterrorism operative, announced Monday that he will mount a conservative, independent bid for president this year. “It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us,” McMullin told ABC News in a statement announcing his campaign.
McMullin most recently served as at the chief policy director of the House Republican conference but has never held public office. He will need to hit the trail running if he is to survive a single news cycle. His most immediate challenge will be introducing himself to voters—no easy task since most of the political press corps hadn’t heard of him before Monday morning and his campaign website launched without a biographical page. Making his long-shot campaign an even longer one, meanwhile, is the presence in the race of the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, both of whom are drawing a not-insignificant amount of interest from voters. (Johnson, in particular, would appear to be the more natural vehicle for the anti-Trump conservative movement.)
McMullin’s larger problem will be getting his name on the ballot this fall, which is neither cheap nor easy for candidates without the backing of a major party. He’s already missed the filing deadline for roughly 20 states and will miss several more if he’s unable to garner thousands of signatures in the coming days. He does, however, still have time to make it on the ballot in Utah, the state that appears to be the most natural fit for his candidacy since he is a Mormon and is an alum of Brigham Young University—and given Trump’s trouble winning over conservative voters in the state.
It’s unclear how much political infrastructure McMullin is starting his campaign with, but it’s hard to imagine it’s enough to wage a national campaign. Both ABC News and BuzzFeed report that the new candidate has the backing of an unidentified number of GOP campaign vets—including Rick Wilson, a Florida-based strategist who has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump—though the early anonymously sourced reports have been noticeably light on details. Even if they’re accurate, McMullin will still need to raise millions of dollars in short order if he is going to have any chance of surviving the summer. As it stands now, it’s hard to see McMullin as anything more than a sacrificial lamb put forth by Trump’s GOP critics who had already been rebuffed by their dream candidate (Mitt Romney), their dark-horse candidate (Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse), and their never-was-a-horse (National Review writer David French) this year.