Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin has taken the lead ahead of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a new Utah poll. If he wins the state, he will be the first third-party candidate to win electoral votes since 1968.
In the Emerson College survey of the usually reliably red state, McMullin, a #NeverTrump conservative, led by four points, with 31 percent of respondents saying that they would vote for him in November. Trump received 27 percent and Clinton had 24 percent.
Though Clinton's favorability numbers have been edging up in many recent polls, she and Trump remain disliked by nearly three out of four Utahns, with 72 percent of respondents reporting negative opinions about Trump and 74 percent saying the same of Clinton.
Utah has voted for the GOP presidential candidate in every election since 1964, though Trump's message has not particularly caught on among the primarily Mormon population. But if McMullin takes in the electoral votes from the state, the effort could be just enough to stop both Trump and Clinton.
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While the former CIA operative and congressman's name remains relatively unknown outside of his home state of Utah, Nate Silver's website, FiveThirtyEight, suggests that this element could actually benefit his candidacy in the event of the perfect political storm.
Should McMullin win Utah -- which in itself would be unprecedented in recent years -- he has a shot at preventing both Trump and Clinton from taking in the required 270 electoral votes needed to win. If Clinton wins by a sizeable margin, as some polls currently predict, Utah results will do little to keep her from the electoral threshold; however, if the race remains close, both major party candidates could come up short.
In the event of an electoral college deadlock, the vote will kick back to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives to decide between to the top three presidential contenders: Clinton, whose party is outnumbered in the House, Trump, who many GOP congress members have hesitated to support, and McMullin.
FiveThirtyEight projects that McMullin has far less than a one-in-ten chance of any of this occurring, making the scenario improbable but not impossible.