Independent presidential candidate McMullin talks to Boiseans about conservatism, his chances

Evan McMullin supporters line up for photos following the independent presidential candidate’s speech Saturday in Boise.
Evan McMullin supporters line up for photos following the independent presidential candidate’s speech Saturday in Boise. doswald@idahostatesman.com

Evan McMullin, the long-shot presidential candidate who has gained momentum in Utah and other places, brought his conservative message to Boise on Saturday, scolding Republican leaders for abandoning their principles in backing Donald Trump and warning that a Hillary Clinton victory could be the price they pay.

“The Republican Party in nominating Donald Trump has lost its way,” he told a crowd of more than 600 people at the Boise High School auditorium. Elected leaders “spend more time focusing on their own self-interest than they do on serving the country.”

Here is what you need to know about McMullin’s appearance in Boise.

1. His visit drew a lot of adoring fans

The crowd cheered, whistled and gave standing ovations throughout his 28-minute speech.

“He definitely represents the values I hold,” including opposing abortion, said Madelyn Marvin, who at 19 will be voting in her first presidential election in November. “I”m just glad there is someone running that I can be proud of.”

Boise’s Stephen Stockinger said he still hasn’t decided which person will get his vote.

“I don’t like the other two candidates. I wanted to hear what (McMullin) had to say,” said Stockinger.

He acknowledged that McMullin’s address “was the kind of thing you like to hear because I am a conservative, and I do believe in trying to bring America back to where it should be. I would like to hear more specifics on what he has to say.”

2. Does he have any chance?

McMullin is on 11 state ballots and cleared for write-in in another 29. In a tight election between Clinton and Trump, he says he has a chance to block them if the election is somehow deadlocked in the Electoral College and goes to the House of Representatives.

The operative words are “tight race,” because even McMullin acknowledges that the gap is widening. “The truth is the race is not close because Hillary Clinton is dominating Donald Trump by such a large margin,” he said.

McMullin said he warned Republican leaders that Trump “will lose in a landslide. He will jeopardize our control of the House and the Senate. But they went ahead and nominated Donald Trump anyway.”

3. How does Idaho fit into his strategy?

The Utah-born McMullin noted that Idaho voters rejected both Trump and Clinton in the GOP primary and Democratic caucus earlier this year, instead choosing Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.

“The reality is we have been able to generate a lot of movement in the Intermountain West,” McMullin said. “Here in Idaho there has been less polling so we aren’t exactly sure where we are, but we have seen increased movement in terms of digital engagement from Idaho.”

McMullin visited Idaho Falls last weekend.

4. Just who is Evan McMullin?

Born in Provo — the heartland of LDS country — McMullin spent his childhood in a rural area of Washington outside of Seattle. He did a two-year Mormon mission in Brazil and then returned to Utah to earn a degree in international law and diplomacy at Brigham Young University. He’s unmarried with no kids.

He spent 11 years in the CIA doing counterterrorism work before leaving the agency to get a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He then had a brief stint in investment banking, and later became a national security adviser for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

5. Is more at stake than this election?

McMullin, 40, and his supporters say he’s starting a conservative movement that “welcomes women and people with disabilities and believes that all men and woman are created equal.” He was joined at the Boise rally by running mate Mindy Finn, a 35-year-old Republican campaign strategist.

“We are conservatives,” Finn said. “We value equality.”

6. If not successful this time, would he run again?

“We’re both more interested in the movement side of what we are doing,” McMullin said. “People will have to decide as part of that movement if we do it or somebody else does it.

“I don’t personally feel that it is an absolute necessity for me to run for office, for example, in order to drive the movement forward.”

Bill Roberts: 208-377-6408, @IDS_BillRoberts

The Associated Press contributed.