Remember a dude by the name of Evan McMullin? A career intelligence community officer and lifelong Republican, late in the game he jumped into the general election as an independent, largely in states where Trump wasn’t wildly popular, hoping to siphon enough GOP votes to get Hillary Clinton elected. It didn’t work, but the results were interesting.
A native son of Utah, McMullin got on the ballot in Utah, and he ran hard in his home state. And while Utah is a blood red state, Trump himself is about as popular as genital warts. McMullin didn’t seriously challenge, but he held Trump to 45% in a deep red state. Clinton got 27%, and McMullin puled in a shocking 21%, almost all from Trump. Remember those numbers later.
He’s baaaaack! Trump Gunga Din Mike Lee is up for reelection in the 2022 cycle, and McMullin announced today that he is opposing him in the general election. Not in the primary, he isn’t interested in that kind of a crap shoot. He’s running in the general election as an independent. And that makes all of the difference in the world.
Because in Utah, it really doesn’t matter if it’s Lee or McMullin in the general election, a Democratic challenger would still only win in Utah after the next confirmed unicorn sighting. And this gives the Utah Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play kingmaker.
I told you earlier to remember those result numbers, and here’s why. In 2016 Trump got 515,231 votes. Clinton got 310,676, and McMullin got 243,690. If you add those last two figures together, a unified candidate in Utah would have won by almost 40,000 votes. And in 2022, the Utah Democrats have a chance to pull that off.
If McMullin wins, he will win as an independent, but he will still need things like committee assignments, and those are controlled by the two major parties, so he will have to declare who he will caucus with. And if McMullin is running to unseat Lee for being too Trumpy, I cannot imagine that he would announce that he would caucus with a GOP still dominated by Trumpism. But the only question about a Democrat in the race is whether he or she would finish second or third.
Try this hat on for size. What if the chair of the Utah Democratic party quietly went to McMullin, and proposed that if McMullin would promise to caucus as a Democrat if he won, the Democrats wouldn’t run any candidate at all in the 2022 Senate race. Not only that, but the Democratic chair would personally endorse McMullin for the seat, and the state Democratic party would whip the vote for McMullin in the 2022 general election. As long as it was kept quiet, why wouldn’t McMullin agree.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually not all that unusual. In her last successful Senate campaign, Missouri Democrat basically ran unopposed in the primary and had a shit load of cash. As a result, her campaign spent a ton on money through fronts running ads in Missouri touting the idiot Todd If a woman is raped, her body has a way of shutting that whole thing down Akin. Basically, she cherry picked her opponent. Akin won, the GOP squealed like a stuck Irish pig, and McCaskill sailed to reelection. And in 2016, once Trump had locked up the nomination, the GOP started telling GOP voters in competitive Democratic states to register as Democrats so that they could vote for Bernie in the primary, and then switch their registration back again once the voted. Both sides do it.
This race absolutely fascinates me, if for nothing than the possible Machiavellian machinations. No Democrat can win Utah in a statewide election. But Utah residents really don’t like Donald Trump, and Mike Lee is no Donald Trump. McMullin will have all the material in the world to tie Lee to Trump with barbed wire. If the Democrats unify behind McMullin, and stump for him, we could actually have a Utah Senator that caucuses with the Democrats. As Rachel likes to say, Stick a pin in this one.
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