On Monday night, Evan McMullin, an independent challenger to Mike Lee (the incumbent Utah Senate senator) took on Mike Lee. Local media proclaimed McMullin’s last chance to impress voters by calling the debate for Lee just two hours before it began. Although it was expected that Lee would have an advantage in information, there was speculation that McMullin might benefit from his ability to use sound-bite answers that could appeal to the audience.
At 6:00 PM Mountain Time, the pair took to the stage. During and before the event, viewers submitted questions. McMullin opted for sound bites and cheap shots and focused on Lee’s partisanship. He also stressed that Lee was dependent upon donors and special interests groups, while McMullin was trying to unify the state, and hold the leaders accountable. McMullin also accused Lee of not working with other parties, and in particular Mitt Romney.
McMullin was asked about PACS campaign ads by Salt Lake Tribune, which is the state’s most prominent left-wing newspaper. Lee stated that his TV ads were primarily about him and not his opponent. McMullin refused to discuss ideas and asked people to trust him blindly. Lee stated that PACS does not use the same messaging McMullin uses. Lee stated that McMullin is a constant target of attack ads. McMullin used the opportunity to raise the Club for Growth ad. He stated that it said something about him and asked Lee if he would condemn the ad. McMullin reiterated that Lee was only about his party, but that McMullin would make Utah an important state if he is elected. Note that Lee’s campaign has absolutely nothing to do with Club for Growth and that McMullin, as an independent candidate, would theoretically have no caucus.
McMullin also claimed that Lee urged the Trump White House to find fake electors in order to reverse the previous presidential election. McMullin claimed Lee advised the government to make “spurious attempts” to get people to claim that the election was stolen. He also said that he had betrayed the Constitution. Lee retorted: “Evan that’s not the truth. That’s false. “You, sir., owe to me an apology,” Lee stated that he investigated rumors that states were changing electors in the days before the vote count. He checked the claims and found them false. This is why he voted to be certified. McMullin stated that the January 6 incident saw “the barbarians at the gate.”
McMullin also claimed Lee was an antiabortion extremist who wanted to stop 10-year-olds from getting abortions. Lee refuted McMullin’s accusations.
Lee stated that the problem was caused by federal spending. McMullin again retreated into a bipartisan argument and stated that senators should support both sides. Lee stated that he has stood up for Trump on numerous occasions.
One student asked Lee about the possibility of war. Lee stated that it was time for the Navy to grow in size and that technology should be updated. He also suggested that trade power should be increased. McMullin stated that the U.S. should improve its relations with other countries, but that it needed to elect a senator that will fight foreign dictators. McMullin claimed that Lee is not on Putin’s blacklist, as he voted against the sanctions against Russia, and has even visited Russia. Lee said that the sanctions had riders that were not intended. Lee explained that he traveled to Russia for imprisoned LDS missionaries. McMullin’s claims that he was a Putin fan were completely false, he said.
McMullin concluded by saying that American politics are corrupt and impeded by special interest donors and extremes. Lee agreed with this statement. McMullin stated that the country is at high risk of falling into chaos and that Utah if elected to power, would be a major player in government.
Lee stated that if it were an ordinary year, without inflation or recession, and with an adversary rattling nukes, McMullin would be a good choice of candidate. Lee said, however, that this was not an average year. He stated that people knew McMullin and that he stood by freedom, liberty, and criminal justice.
During the televised media scrum, the reporters were more positive with McMullin than Lee and accused him of attacking his opponent. Lee later stated that McMullin’s old base, the Democrat party sent McMullin into the debate to launch baseless attacks and a smear program. This is why McMullin spent his time and the debate taking shots at Lee. Lee noted that McMullin voted for Joe Biden, and has avoided the issue of inflation and public safety. During the debate, the issues of rising crime and recent actions of the Department of Justice were not raised.
McMullin tried his best to get Lee off his game by using constant attacks. Although he seemed a bit more relaxed, Lee managed to maintain his cool throughout the event. It was evident that Lee was only there to present the facts. McMullin was there for sound bites and, in Russia’s case, only part of it. Lee was caught in a lie about January 6.
McMullin might find some support with his lies and accusations. McMullin is aware that he has the support of the national media and was trying to instill trust in voters. In that regard, he might have gained some points. McMullin was a debater, and Lee came with innuendo.
McMullin emphasized bipartisanship but, as Breitbart reported Monday, Utah’s independent candidate for Senate might not be as middle of the road as he would like voters to believe. Sean Moran said that McMullin uses Act Blue to raise funds, rather than WinRed, which is the GOP’s equivalent. McMullin can choose to remain independent and use the Republican platform. Why is McMullin working with Democrats to advance his cause then? According to the story, he also spent $1.6 million on advertising funds. This includes $700,000.000 to Break Something, a digital marketing firm that helps Democrats win; $281,000 to Precision Strategies, a Democrat consulting firm founded by Stephanie Cutter (who are “Biden friends”); and $182.151 to Impact Research which lists Biden among its clients. Foundation Strategies, Spiros Consulting, and Blueprint Public Affairs were all used by the campaign, as well as KMM Strategies and KMM Strategies. These are all Democrat companies. Andrew Roberts is his campaign manager and has worked with luminaries such as Ben McAdams (Michael Bloomberg), Hillary Clinton, and even Barack Obama. Lee, for his part, believes McMullin would join the Democrats if he is elected.
In this day and age, polls are not always 100% reliable. The latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found Lee leading with 41 percent, and McMullin with 37 percent. It remains to be seen whether Utah voters can see beyond the giddy excitement on Election Day.