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Long-shot presidential hopeful Evan McMullin swung through the Utah State Fair on Tuesday, grabbing a funnel cake, a lemonade and introducing himself to a handful of voters, getting some quizzical looks in the process.
Most had never heard of McMullin's independent candidacy, and some expressed doubts about how realistic it was for him to be mounting a bid so soon before Election Day.
Idahoan Scott Claiborn, for example, who supported Ben Carson and Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries, asked McMullin how he plans to get his name out to hundreds of millions of Americans with so little time remaining.
"If somebody was going to campaign for president, whether they're doing it on a platform that's solid or not solid, 60 days is cutting it a bit close," said the Twin Falls resident who sported a straw cowboy hat as he watched livestock judging. "I have a hard time seeing someone getting elected county commissioner in 60 days, much less president."
Another fairgoer questioned if McMullin could be anything more than a spoiler, guaranteeing Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the White House.
Such are the questions dogging McMullin as he campaigns across a targeted group of states in his perhaps quixotic bid to keep Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump from reaching the Oval Office.
If it's a close race, he said, then every vote that might deny both Clinton and Trump the needed 270 electoral votes matters. If it's a blowout, then voters should take a stand and vote their conscience for a candidate in whom they believe.
"What my message is is that both of the two candidates are dangerous for the country. I'm urging people to vote their conscience," McMullin said. "Utah may be able to vote for someone else and block Donald Trump. If the race is not close, then it doesn't matter."
Clinton is "deeply corrupt," McMullin argued, but it's Trump who is "a true danger to our Constitution. He has no principles. He's flip-flopped on every issue under the sun."
"He stands for nothing," McMullin added. "I don't think he's someone who can be trusted."
McMullin anticipates being on the ballot in about 13 or 14 states and is filing as a write-in candidate in about 25 others. Lawsuits may still be filed in a few states where the campaign sees an opening to be a factor.
But his real focus is trying to make a difference in a small handful where he could potentially change the outcome or grab some electoral votes that would keep either Trump or Clinton from reaching the magic number, thus throwing the contest to the U.S. House to decide a feat that has not happened since John Quincy Adams' win over Andrew Jackson in 1825.
Even then, under his best-case scenario, to be considered for the presidency, McMullin would have to finish among the top three vote-getters. It's a tall order for the Provo-born former CIA operative who most recently worked as a congressional policy wonk.
McMullin was polling at 9 percent in the latest survey in Utah, trailing Trump who had 39 percent and Clinton at 24 percent.
Outside the Beehive State, McMullin appears to barely be a blip. Even so, McMullin is raising money, mostly from online donations, and said he has had more than 150,000 people sign up online to volunteer and receive information about his campaign. He has also courted prominent advisers to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and tried and thus far failed to win endorsements from federal elected officials.
He was at the Minnesota State Fair this past weekend a state where his name will be on the ballot and is traveling Wednesday to Iowa with plans to campaign in Idaho and Colorado.
McMullin said he sees part of his mission as leading a movement to re-create the Republican Party. After the electoral loss four years ago, the party studied the reasons for its failure and determined it needed to appeal to more women and minorities then went hard in the opposite direction, McMullin said.