Evan McMullin is staring at pulling off the impossible in Utah, new polls indicate.
After barely registering on the national radar for most of the presidential race, the independent candidate on the ballot in his native Utah has surged at the same time that Donald Trump has plummeted, and now is actually seen as a favorite to take the state’s six electoral votes.
It has been a meteoric rise for McMullin, who just got on the ballot in Utah in August and only more recently started getting significant media attention. But he has surged in recent weeks, and new polls show that Evan McMullin is actually in the lead in Utah.
A poll released Wednesday from Emerson College found that McMullin had a small but clear lead, taking 31 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Trump and 24 percent for Clinton.
The numbers aren’t entirely surprising given Utah’s reluctance to support Donald Trump. Though it has been one of the most reliably Republican states for half a century, Utah has been a very difficult state for Trump throughout the election. It was there that he turned in one of the worst performances of the Republican primary, and the state’s conservative and largely Mormon voter base has had difficulty latching on to the scandal-prone Trump.
That was even more so after the release of an Access Hollywood video from 2005 that showed Trump appearing to brag about sexually assaulting women. The statements have led to a sharp drop in the polls nationally for Trump, and it was during that time period that Evan McMullin shot to the top of the polls in Utah.
McMullin has built considerable momentum beyond the polls, garnering important endorsements and picking up more media coverage.
As poll aggregator and analysis site FiveThirtyEight noted, Utah has become one of the most interesting battlegrounds in any recent election. The report noted that polling traditionally overstates the support for third-party candidates, but that the drop for these candidates usually comes long before October. The fact that Evan McMullin is leading the polls so late in the game is unprecedented in any recent election.
The report noted that third-party candidates with support in low single-digits may just be standing in for undecided voters who will eventually turn back to the major parties. But McMullin has actually reached the point where he is seen as a real candidate with a real chance to win.
“A more important threshold comes somewhere in the range of 25 percent of the vote. Third-party candidates above this range can plausibly win in a three- or four-way race, while candidates below it can only spoil the victory for someone else or serve as protest votes. That’s why you usually don’t see a lot of races with results like: the Republican 39 percent, the Democrat 37 percent, and the independent 24 percent. In a case like that, the independent wasn’t quite close enough to have a shot to win the race herself, but she also had enough support that her voters could easily have tipped the balance between the Democrat and the Republican.”
That is just where Evan McMullin has landed in recent polls. Aside from the poll this week that showed him in the lead, another recent poll from Rasmussen/
The next few weeks will determine whether the polls are correct in predicting an Evan McMullin win in Utah. Donald Trump’s collapse has created a void in Utah that allowed the independent candidate to rise up, but if Trump is able to recover even slightly, it could squash whatever chance McMullin once had.
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]