A day after Utah Republican leaders urged skeptical conservatives to back Donald Trump, independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin stepped up his outreach to millennials at a candidate forum at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Evan McMullin points to Joel Gardner, a 22-year-old political science major who voted for Gary Johnson in 2012. Gardner wants to know McMullin’s stance on foreign policy and military interventions in the Middle East.
Gardner doesn’t say it during his question, but afterward reveals he went ahead and voted for Gary Johnson again.
“So I still think he’s pretty hawkish, which is the main reason I didn’t vote for him,” says Gardner. “I came out because he’s obviously going to be a player in the future. Especially in Utah politics, he’s going to be a player.”
Gardner exemplifies the strange electoral landscape of Utah politics this year. An active Mormon, he says this election has divided his whole family.
“I have a sister who is voting for Hillary, a sister voting for Trump and everybody else in my family is kind of across the board,” he says. "My family's never been divided on political issues before."
McMullin on Wednesday reiterated his strategy to win Utah’s six electoral votes by picking up younger voters, like Gardner, who seek out third-party candidates.
“The next audience is talking to people who are supporting Donald Trump and convincing them this is a better way,” says McMullin. “Come home to your principals, come home to true conservatism, come home to the ideals that made this country so special, so powerful and prosperous.”
Republican Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence used this same “come home” phrase to a Salt Lake rally last week, as he attempted to woo conservatives back to the Trump train.
“They took our party, why can’t we take their phrase?” quipped McMullin.
Win or lose Utah, McMullin is hoping to launch a new conservative movement after the election to rebuild a fractured Republican party.