To use Donald Trump’s own parlance, the Republican presidential nominee is getting 'schlonged' in the polls. Following the release of a 2005 tape in which he bragged of making unwanted sexual advances, Trump’s support has dropped to 39 per cent in Rasmussen’s latest survey, versus 44 per cent for Clinton. In South Park terms, this means the Turd Sandwich is on course to comfortably beat the Giant Douche.
That still leaves 17 per cent of likely voters who aren’t behind either major-party candidate, bringing me to my own top pick for President: independent conservative Evan McMullin, whose support is surging despite most pollsters pronouncing his name ‘other’. According to Public Policy Polling - one of the only national surveys to track McMullin by name - the bald-pated insurgent doubled his share of the likely vote to two per cent at the end of September, from one per cent at the end of August.
McMullin’s momentum is all the more impressive considering that ardent supporters such as myself had never heard of him until recently. The GOP’s Never-Trump rump tapped him in August after Mitt Romney, Mark Cuban, and anyone else with an iota of name recognition demurred to go up against Donald. A former CIA officer and ex-Goldman Sachs associate, McMullin was last employed as a foreign-policy advisor to Republicans in Congress, where he rallied assistance for Syrian opposition groups.
In his spare time, McMullin enjoys long talks on the TED stage, and writing fizzy Facebook posts lambasting Trump’s hostility towards Muslims and his affection for Vladimir Putin. As if to ensure that his campaign would be maximally offensive to Trump’s conspiracy-minded, racially preoccupied alt-right base, McMullin picked as his running mate Mindy Finn, a 35-year-old Republican strategist who happens to be Jewish.
McMullin is not to be confused with the other-other candidates in the race: Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, polling at 7 per cent per Rasmussen; and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, whose two per cent puts her in a dead heat with ‘other’ but who nonetheless enjoys proper-name status in national polls. McMullin has repeatedly challenged Johnson and Stein to a third-party debate, and says major US networks have offered to host. Stein is keen but Johnson hasn’t responded, apparently too busy suing for access to the Turd-or-Douche main stage.
The conventional wisdom on all these third-party runs is that a vote for any is, de facto, a vote for Clinton or Trump. By those lights, Johnson and Stein are potential spoilers for both Clinton and Trump, while the McMullin campaign is likely to shave votes only from Trump - at least where he’s able to. Having missed the filing deadlines in several states, McMullin so far has gotten his name on 11 state ballots, and has secured write-in eligibility on 23 more.
The unconventional wisdom says McMullin could, improbably, become the 45th President of the United States. This would require that he not only win at least one state - say, Utah, where McMullin was born, where his name will appear on the ballot, and where he last polled at 12 per cent - but also that neither Clinton nor Trump reaches the 270 Electoral College votes for an outright majority. Even in Utah, McMullin’s prospects are slim, despite an endorsement this week from former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell. McMullin has been cannibalizing more votes from Johnson than from Trump in the Beehive State. Regardless of Utah, Trump is set to lose badly enough that Clinton should easily clear 270 electoral votes.
The more realistic hope is that McMullin’s campaign may counteract the expected Trump-effect of low GOP turnout, and perhaps help Republicans keep their Congressional majorities even in the (increasingly likely) event of a Clinton landslide. By luring out voters such as myself who would otherwise have stayed at home on election day, McMullin might salvage some Republican House and Senate seats on the so-called ‘down-ballot’. Princeton data scientist Sam Wang figures that every one per cent of McMullin-generated turnout would equal six House seats saved or gained for the GOP. McMullin’s name will appear on ballots in Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, and Iowa, among others, where several competitive House seats are at stake.
There is also the personal satisfaction of voting for a candidate whom one does not loathe, and whose comportment does not raise the question of whether it’s less-awful to boast of being a sexual predator, or to defend and enable sexual predators in pursuit of power. Trumpkins and Clintonites alike jeer that we McMulliners represent the most out-of-touch branch of American politics, that we are thoroughly removed from the national zeitgeist and the lurid discourse of Douche vs Turd. In this, they are exactly right - they just don’t seem to realise how pleased we are to be so.
Anne Jolis splits her time between Pittsburgh, New York, and the rest of the world. She is registered to vote, without party affiliation, in Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District.