OGDEN, Utah — Evan McMullin filled a college campus ballroom on Thursday with supporters who aren’t being dissuaded by criticism that the long-shot presidential candidate is nothing more than a spoiler.
McMullin, a late-entry independent conservative, has scrambled the race for Utah’s six votes in the Electoral College, possibly narrowing Donald Trump’s difficult path to the White House. That’s enough for McMullin’s Republican supporters here.
They have been wary of Trump since he secured the Republican nomination in May and can’t bring themselves to vote for the businessman, even up against arguments that all they’re doing is helping Hillary Clinton.
“To be quite frank, if someone were to ask me: ‘Who did you vote for?’ I would be ashamed to tell them that I voted for Trump,” Rob Woellhaf, 43, told the Washington Examiner as he was leaving the McMullin town hall meeting at Weber State University.
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Woellhaf, a registered Republican and regular GOP voter, said he has no illusions about McMullin’s national viability.
“I don’t think people are voting for Evan McMullin because he’s going to be the president. I think everybody clearly knows that he’s not going to be the next president,” he said.
In the latest RealClearPolitics.com average of Utah polls, Trump led by 5.8 percentage points, garnering 31 percent to 25.2 percent each for McMullin and Clinton. In the last five presidential elections, the GOP candidate has earned an average of 66 percent of the vote.
The Trump campaign was concerned enough about losing Utah that it dispatched GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence to Salt Lake City on Wednesday boost support for the ticket.
McMullin, 40, a former CIA operative and House Republican aide. His running mate Mindy Finn is a Republican political operative based in Washington.
McMullin has focused his effort in the Mountain West, campaigning in Utah and Idaho, among other states, where there are high concentrations of Mormons. McMullin is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has Utah ties.
On a swing through Utah on Thursday, about 250 people showed up for McMullin’s mid day town, filling a college campus ballroom in Ogden, about 40 minutes north of Salt Lake City. Most stayed through his opening speeches and subsequent question and answer session
McMullin and Finn, in their remarks, offered a mixture of what they believed and how they would govern, plus healthy doses of condemnation of Clinton and Trump. McMullin also addressed the long shot nature of his bid.
“Knowing that it was the last possible moment when someone could launch an even long-shot, Hail Mary attempt to block Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I knew that I had to consider this,” he said.
The audience seemed keen on McMullin’s criticism of the Republican nominee, laughing when he mocked GOP leaders for believing they could mold and control Trump and cheering when he said that neither of the major party candidates are “entitled to your vote.”
David M. Drucker