Ross Perot was the anti-establishment candidate in 1992, who rose to prominence for taking 19% of the Vote in the presidential election. The vacuum that created his success was a very unpopular incumbent president, who’s party was disenfranchised with him due to broken campaign promises about taxes, failing to eliminate Saddam Hussein, and a poor economy. The vacuum was also created due to lukewarm response to the democratic candidate, who was freshly coming off a scandal where he had an affair with Gennifer Flowers. This created a space for a 3rd party candidate to give people somewhere they could vote as a protest to the other two candidates. There is often talk that George Bush would have won without Ross Perot taking the votes, but polling data and exit surveys clearly paint that Bush was always lagging behind Clinton and Ross took votes equally from both candidates.
I think this parallels well the situation in Utah today with candidate Evan McMullin. McMullin is a relative unknown with virtually no history, but the one main power he has is that he is neither Trump no Clinton. He gives people who do not feel comfortable with either establishment candidate a space where they can register their dissent. This is why the latest polls show McMullin with a 14-25% chance of winning Utah (and thusly a .00001% chance of becoming president through a very unlikely scenario that the house negotiates with him after a very unlikely Clinton/Trump tie)
As someone who was fascinated by Perot as a child (Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative), I find this an interesting scenario. While I will be voting for Hillary in the upcoming election, I find this idea of a protest vote a wonderful statement of our democratic process, and applaud the state of Utah for not stomaching an invalidate candidate and finding a way to maintain an identity independent of their predominantly republican stereotype.
Other brief thoughts:
Interestingly, while McMullin is not a truly viable contender for the presidency, he could be seen as a republican escape plan, an opportunity for the republican party to recognize its departure from reasoned politics to “outrage politics” has been a cancer on its sustainable success for the past 16 years and needs to be adjusted, similar to the democratic party adjustment to the center post 12 years of Reagan
McMullin would easily take Utah with a Romney nod, judging by Cruz’s landside win in the primaries. I am wondering if he will get such an endorsement. I am also very interested in the “Romney effect” on Utah politics. Why does Romney successfully hold so much sway when Hatch, Lee, Reid, etc fail to do so in any meaningful way. Is this a case of tv celebrity superseding political celebrity? If Donnie Osmond stumped for a candidate, would it have a similar effect?
McMullin is superseding Johnson as the viable third party candidate in Utah after Johnson screwed up his shot by putting off the Mormon base in Utah, and basically botching basically every public appearance he made. (Johnson is the Palin of 2016?), However, McMullin has coming from virtually nowhere. One wonders how he was able to burst onto the scene to fill the void. Who backed him to start up? While a presidential bid for him this round is not viable, I also wonder if her could leverage this flash of fame to take a house seat or a senate seat the next go round,
I do not think a 3rd party presidential candidate will ever be viable UNLESS they first establish themselves as winning candidates in multiple other state and congressional elections. The Libertarian party is the closest to doing this, but has faced setbacks, but it will never be viable unless it can truly differentiate itself from republicanism in a meaningful way. I thought they had a shot at this with Johnson this round, but then he spoke. Anyway, for a 3rd party to be viable at the presidential level, there need to be enough Governors/Congress to establish a counterbalance to the control the DNC and RNC hold over major political events like the debates, townhalls, etc. While the youtube era does allow for anyone to make anything they want, to get the viewership needed, they must break into the traditional events