SALT LAKE CITY — Evan McMullin, the BYU graduate who just launched a longshot independent bid for president, said Wednesday he's "open" to stepping up to replace Donald Trump on the GOP ticket.
"Is Donald Trump going to be able to last through this election with his ego and poor performance? I don't know," McMullin told a meeting of the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards when asked what options he had to win the White House.
And when "people en masse realize he can't compete with Hillary Clinton? The Republicans will have to find another candidate," he said. "I would be open to it being me. I am pursuing the presidency. I think there are other good Americans, patriots, who also would be good, too."
McMullin, a former CIA counterterrorism officer, said he joined forces with the Stop Trump movement because they had been unable to find a candidate to take on the billionaire businessman.
McMullin said he had discussions over about three weeks with a number of people involved in the effort that initially tried to recruit Mitt Romney, the GOP's 2012 nominee and one of Trump's toughest critics, as well as other conservatives.
With such a late entry in the race, McMullin said he knows it's going to be tough.
"Let me be clear that I don't think this is an easy road. So yes, I get it. I fully get it," he said.
But McMullin said a detailed plan is already in place to get on general election ballots around the country, including through lawsuits and potential cooperation with "minor parties."
In Utah and other states, he still has time to meet deadlines to qualify for the ballot. On Wednesday night, McMullin held an event in Salt Lake City to collect the 1,000 voter signatures required to be submitted to Utah elections officials by Monday.
Another option he discussed was the possibility no candidate gets a majority in November and the race goes to the U.S. House to decide, with each state delegation getting a single vote, something that hasn't happened since 1864.
McMullin dismissed concerns raised by some that his candidacy will shift votes in reliably Republican Utah to Clinton, the former secretary of state. Utah has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964 but is now being seen as a swing state.
"Utah is a very important state to us, but it's really about who wins the presidency. Donald Trump is losing badly to Hillary and was before I even got into this race," McMullin said.
Asked whether Clinton was preferable to Trump if a voter saw them as the only viable choices in November, he said, "I believe that Donald Trump poses a near-term threat to our democracy."
Clinton, McMullin said, "would perpetuate problems that lead to longer-term, but very, very serious problems. And there's a moment here, I believe, in the country where we genuinely need a new generation of leadership with some new ideas."