A totally plausible path for Evan McMullin to become president
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Maybe — just maybe — neither Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE nor Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren policy ideas show signs of paying off Biden at campaign kickoff event: I don't have to be 'angry' to win Top Dem: Trump helps GOP erase enthusiasm gap; Ohio a big problem MORE will be elected president.


It's a stretch, but then again, so too was the star of “The Apprentice” crushing every primary opponent and seizing the Republican nomination. We're living in a Dali-esque world in which anything is possible.

As of this writing, upsets in four states could lead to a President Evan McMullin and Vice President Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineMontana Gov. Bullock enters presidential race Bullock hires senior staffers ahead of likely presidential run Senate fails to override Trump's Yemen veto MORE. By upsets, I mean four of the outcomes currently projected by FiveThirtyEight would have to be wrong.

First, McMullin, the conservative independent and former CIA officer pressed into service by Never Trumpers, would have to win Utah — a plausible scenario given recent polling. It doesn’t hurt, too, that he was born in Utah, is a Mormon, and attended Brigham Young University.

Second, Trump would need wins in North Carolina, Florida, and Michigan (Trump is already forecast to win Ohio, though a victory in the Buckeye State is certainly not certain).


At the moment, FiveThirtyEight gives McMullin a 19.4 percent chance of winning Utah. It gives Trump a 42.7 percent chance of winning North Carolina; a 47.3 percent chance of winning Florida; and an 18.8 percent chance of winning Michigan.

If these four upsets occurred, Clinton would win 263 electoral votes, Trump 269, and McMullin six. No one would reach 270.

Then, as laid out in the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives would choose the president from the top three electoral vote-getters. So it doesn't matter if McMullin trails Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonPotential GOP primary challenger: Trump's 'contempt for the American people' behind possible bid The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration Former Mass. governor takes step toward Trump primary challenge MORE and Jill Stein in the popular vote; if Johnson and Stein garner fewer electoral votes than McMullin, they won't be eligible to be considered for the presidency.

It's likely the GOP will maintain control of the House — albeit with a smaller majority. And it's very possible the Democrats will seize control of the Senate. That's how we could end up with McMullin as president and Kaine as vice president.


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Each state delegation in the incoming House would get one vote for president. Each senator would get one vote for vice president — but they would only be allowed to choose between the top two electoral vote-getters, who almost certainly would be Kaine and Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceDozens of graduates walk out in protest of Pence address Trudeau on tariff deal: Canadian and US businesses can get back to 'working constructively together' Congress has a duty to go through with the impeachment and public trial of President Trump MORE.

There would be extreme pressure from Clinton and Trump supporters to elect one or the other candidate; most of our representatives would be put in an untenable position. But there are enough anti-Trump congressmen and level-headed Democrats who would rather see anybody as president instead of Trump; McMullin could win in the House.

Right now, FiveThirtyEight gives an electoral deadlock a 1.2 percent chance of occurring.

Many Democrats will disagree with some of McMullin’s policies. Many Republicans will disagree with some of Kaine’s. But together, as a bipartisan team, they could unite the country in a way neither Trump nor Clinton ever will. 

For instance:

“Our natural environment is a divine gift and each of us has the responsibility to serve as its steward. There is an important role for the government to play in ensuring that our children and our children’s children have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean parks and forests to play in.”

That’s from McMullin’s website. Though they disagree on how to combat climate change, both McMullin and Kaine agree it is a problem. There's at least one issue on which they could find common ground. 

Perhaps an electoral deadlock, as volatile as it would be, will spare America four years of Trump or Clinton.

Find it hard to believe the country could really get out of this election no worse for wear? Crazier things have already happened.

Walczak is a New Orleans-based journalist and the author of "Four Gone," an in-depth investigation into the 1972 disappearance of Congressmen Hale Boggs and Nick Begich.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.