It's only a few days until Election Day, and if you're among those fretting over what the next four years might look like no matter which of the two least-appealing presidential candidates in U.S. history wins, perhaps there is still another option. One who, amazingly, has an actual albeit slim chance to be the next president of the United States, even if he only wins his home state. And even if he ends up fifth in the popular vote.
Utah conservative Evan McMullin, who is running as an independent, might make history in this already most unusual election even without winning the presidency. If McMullin wins his home state of Utah, he will be the first non-major party candidate to win a state since 1968. Doing that is the first step in opening the door ever so slightly to him becoming the next commander in chief.
McMullin, a former CIA operations officer and former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, went from a total unknown to polling about even with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Utah in the past month. The surge came on the heels of the recording of Trump's lewd conversation about women with Billy Bush on the set of "Access Hollywood" being released Oct. 7. As you might imagine, Trump's comments didn't play well with the influential Mormon set in Utah.
The last non-major party candidate to win a state was former Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1968. Wallace, running as an American Independent on a pro-segregation platform, won five states and 45 Electoral College votes in the South. Wallace's goal was never to win the election outright, rather to prevent both Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey from winning a majority of the Electoral College.
Under the 12th Amendment of the United States Constitution, if neither candidate receives the 270-vote majority needed in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives would choose a president from the top three Electoral College vote-getters.
That would be McMullin's path to the White House.
Should McMullin manage to triumph in his home state and get the six electoral votes that come with it, it could set up a roadblock to both Trump and Clinton getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Jonathan Walczak, writing for The Hill, lays out a scenario where Trump wins battleground states Florida, North Carolina and Michigan, along with Ohio where a Trump victory is predicted but not guaranteed. In his scenario, Trump would take 269 electoral votes — one short of the majority needed; Clinton would win 263 and McMullin gets Utah's six.
The House of Representatives would then choose between the three. (Interesting, if Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein get more of the popular vote than McMullin — entirely likely considering they are on 50 and 45 state ballots, respectively, versus McMullin's 11 — they wouldn't be considered because they didn't secure any Electoral College votes.)
Had Wallace accomplished this in 1968 — the election was ultimately taken by Republican Richard Nixon, who barely won the popular vote but easily won the Electoral College 301-191 — it's not clear that he would have been able to convince the House Democrats, who controlled 26 of the 50 state house delegations, to choose him for the presidency.
If the House of Representatives stays in Republican control as expected, McMullin — described by ABC News as "a staunch, classic Republican conservative" who opposes Obamacare, favors tax cuts, is pro-life and a national security hawk — might actually stand a chance of being picked over Trump.
Meanwhile, under the same scenario, because the 12th Amendment gives each U.S. senator a vote to choose the vice president in the case of an electoral deadlock but only among the two top electoral vote-getters, it's plausible that the Democrats seize the Senate and choose Clinton's running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, as second in command.
Impossible? Probably. And it certainly wouldn't happen without consternation on both sides. But in this election … stranger things have happened.
Wayne Carter is editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.