Since entering the presidential race as an independent candidate this summer, Evan McMullin has mostly inspired some truly terrible Egg McMuffin jokes.
But now, with just two weeks to go until Election Day, he has found himself locked in a three-way tie with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in his home state of Utah. One poll released last week had him up by four points there.
With few paths left to 270, Trump can’t exactly afford to lose those reliably red six electoral votes. So if the race tightens any more, the conservative McMullin could play an important role in handing the presidency to Clinton.
And he didn’t seem to have any qualms about this potential spoiler status when he sat down for an unusually contentious CNBC interview Tuesday morning.
The hosts of the cable network’s morning show made their intentions clear at the outset of McMullin’s segment.
“We’re having you on, not because we think you can win the presidency, but because you are rising in the polls enough in Utah that there’s a threat that those electoral votes don’t actually go to the Republican, but go to you,” host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera told the candidate, who laughed knowingly.
For all of the Republican candidate’s “flaws,” she appeared to speak on behalf of Trump voters when she asked McMullin how he feels about making things easier for Clinton.
“He’s not going to beat Hillary Clinton, unless something truly dramatic and incredible happens,” McMullin said of Trump, pointing to the general consensus of election prediction models. He went to call Trump an “absolutely terrible candidate” who had “no chance” from the beginning, even against a “deeply flawed and corrupt” candidate like Clinton.
As host Joe Kernen repeatedly yelled the word “Brexit” in response, McMullin accused him of “ignoring” the polls—a common problem among Trumpkins. “It’s likely that you’re right, but you don’t know,” Kernen said, arguing that with McMullin’s logic, we might as well not have an election at all.
“You can deny that all you want, like the Trump supporters, but that’s the reality,” McMullin said of the state of the race.
Kernen then accused McMullin of “taking votes away” from Trump and “making it harder” for him to win. “So I’m taking votes away from Donald Trump?” McMullin asked, smiling. “He might be the Republican, but he’s no conservative.” As he listed off Trump’s past liberal positions, he asked, “Is that what you’re defending?”
Later when billionaire Trump supporter Ken Langone tried to defend his candidate by pointing to his recent call for term limits on members of Congress, McMullin said that while he too supports term limits, “That’s hardly an excuse for Donald Trump’s candidacy, which has been a bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic candidacy that has divided this country.” Even as a candidate for president, he said Trump “has done enormous harm to our country.”
With those words and other over the past couple of weeks, McMullin, who started his campaign as a representative of the #NeverTrump movement, has made his aims abundantly clear. On the official presidential ballot in just 11 states, he’s not fooling himself into thinking he has a shot at winning—unlike some other third-party candidates.
If he ends up taking some small credit for keeping Donald Trump out of the White House, he could become a hero to many. Just not the morning hosts on CNBC.