On Thursday, I wrote to explain why I believe that independent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin—whom I have openly endorsed—and Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson should form an immediate cartel whereby, at minimum, McMullin fully withdraws from New Mexico and Johnson fully withdraws from Utah. Johnson has a non-neglible chance of winning New Mexico’s Electoral College votes, and all signs point toward a legitimate McMullin surge in his home state of Utah.
I conceded that the McMullin/Johnson cartel strategy only has an infinitesimal chance of actually resulting in the House of Representatives selecting the next President, pursuant to the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments to the Constitution. Steve (accurately) refers to the strategy, insofar as it is judged with this ultimate House vote as the goal in mind, as a “Hail Mary.”
But the fact remains that, following Reince Priebus and his apparatchiks strong-arming the #FreeTheDelegates movement using Paul Manafort-acquired Muscovite thug tactics on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, this “Hail Mary” is pretty much our only chance to avoid electing as de facto free world leader either the tangerine-hued narcissistic vulgarian or the systemically corrupted should-be felon.
It follows, therefore, that we should take this opportunity—no matter how seemingly long the odds against us may be—quite seriously. McMullin’s winning Utah would certainly be nothing if not symbolic and historic. Holding the issue of the “faithless elector” aside, no Electoral College vote has been legitimately earned by a third-party/independent presidential candidate since the infamous segregationist campaign of George Wallace in 1968.
With that in mind, here is more from Steve (my own emphasis in bold):
McMullin is doing very well in Utah, which makes sense since he’s a Mormon. If Mitt Romney, whose Mormon blood runs GOP red and has so far resisted all attempts to get him to turn on his party (although he very publicly despises Trump with the heat of a thousand supernovae), formally endorsed McMullin, it may give the independent enough oomph to take the state and its six electoral votes.
I think this is quite clearly correct. Though his only experience holding high public office came in Massachusetts and not in Utah, it is impossible to overstate the influence that Romney still holds in the Beehive State. It was with Romney’s endorsement in mind that Utahns voted overwhelmingly for Ted Cruz in their GOP presidential primary: Cruz won over 69% of the statewide vote. Senator Mike Lee might have had already endorsed his good friend Cruz, but it was Romney’s imprimatur that signified the preference for Cruz over Trump of not just the first-generation Tea Party/ardent constitutional conservative crowd, but also of large swaths of the more genteel GOP elder statesman crowd. (But see Bob Dole…ugh. What epic failure.)
Romney has made no secret, this cycle, of his antipathy for the GOP’s fraudster of a nominee. His public remarks on March 3 remain, to this day, amongst the most scathing rebukes of Trump offered all campaign cycle by a nationally prominent Republican. For those of us who believe Mitt Romney is a patriot and a genuinely upstanding and virtuous man—holding aside whatever policy disagreements some of us may have had with him over the years—it was refreshing to see such intellectual integrity and unvarnished candor.
Following Ted Cruz’s bowing out after the Indiana primary, Romney turned down overtures to mount an independent campaign bid. He did not do so without ample calls for him to mount such a bid. Erick, himself famously a long-time Romney skeptic, actually wrote in May to lend support to the idea. But Romney, whether out of a general desire to eschew the public limelight or out of a perceived need not to cross Republican Party leadership whilst his son Josh Romney not-so-subtly flirts with the possibility of seeking high public office in Utah, ultimately demurred.
Legitimate grievances against Mitt Romney aside, Romney admirably stood athwart Donald Trump this cycle at a time when far too many Republicans were still too timid to do so. By sounding the alarm against Trump so presciently and mightily, Romney has already served conservatism well.
Now, he can do even more for the conservative cause by formally endorsing for President of the United States his co-religionist and fellow Brigham Young University alumnus, Evan McMullin.
Considering how vociferously Mitt Romney has already come out against the GOP’s nominee, there is already a degree of family-wide anti-Trump sentiment baked into the calculus of any future Josh Romney political run. Mitt Romney going one step further and formally lending support to Evan McMullin’s independent presidential bid would hardly be much more than an incrementally minuscule shift, in that regard. But, as I noted on Thursday, this is Utah, and the largely-Mormon Republican electorate—and, yes, that includes even the official party apparatus—there is not exactly pro-Trump:
A lot of people on social media are a bit perplexed why it is that Utah, of all states, seems to be leading the conservative anti-Trump brigade. Senator Mike Lee—who literally no one with a functioning brain could ever plausibly accuse of being a GOP establishment-aligned squish—posted a remarkable video to his Facebook feed last Friday, calling for Trump to step aside. Many other notable Utah Republicans, such as Governor Gary Herbert, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, and Rep. Mia Love, have all similarly come out swinging against Trump since the latest
revelation reminder that the tangerine con man is a lascivious braggart and a self-admitted sexual assailant.
The upshot is that, if Josh Romney’s possible political ambition in Utah is really the main obstacle to the endorsement, that really is not much of an obstacle. The Utah GOP is not, for example, the obsequiously Trumpist Arizona GOP.
Mitt Romney is the most publicly prominent Mormon Republican politician in America. He is disproportionately influential in Utah, and he is strongly anti-Trump in both ideology and disposition. If Romney were to endorse Evan McMullin for President, more endorsements from prominent Utah Mormons might follow: perhaps Gov. Herbert, Rep. Chaffetz, Rep. Love, or even Sen. Lee.
After two unsuccessful runs for the highest office in the land, Mitt Romney’s closing act in 2016 has been an admirably principled one. He can make it even more principled, and thus do the right thing, by immediately offering a formal endorsement to Evan McMullin for President of the United States. McMullin’s campaign would get a shot in the arm just as it seems the candidate is already surging, and McMullin would quite possibly soon emerge as the unambiguous front-runner to win Utah’s Electoral College votes. From there, of course, anything is possible.