— -- Riding a surge of support in polls in Utah, independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said he feels "very good" about his chances of winning the state and accused GOP leaders of surrendering conservative principles.
"The reality is that the vast majority of Republican leaders are putting party ahead of principle and putting power over the interests of their own country," he told George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week."
McMullin argued that the GOP is going astray with Trump as its nominee and that he is skeptical the party can quickly make the changes needed to return to conservative principles and appeal to a broad segment of American voters.
"It's going in the wrong direction, not the right direction, in its nomination of Donald Trump but then also in standing by Trump even as he continues these bigoted, sexist, xenophobic messages to the United States," McMullin said. "If the Republican Party can't make the changes, as it wasn't able to do after 2012, the conservative movement will need a new political vehicle."
That call for a new conservative party could take off with a win in Utah, which McMullin says would send a strong message to the country that voters "still stand on principle."
No independent candidate in a general presidential election has won all of a state's electoral votes since 1968, when segregationist George Wallace won Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
McMullin is surging in polls in Utah and drawing crowds of Republican-leaning voters at his rallies who are apparently unhappy with the party's nominee but uninterested in Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or Libertarian Gary Johnson, both of whose liberal stances on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage turn off the heavily Mormon electorate in the Beehive State.
Still, McMullin, a former CIA operative and Republican congressional staffer, struggles from a lack of name recognition and a national party to support him. Asked if he hoped to gain a public endorsement from former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon, to boost his chances, McMullin said the support his campaign cares about is from "regular people across the country."
"They are the ones who are funding our campaign," he said. "They are supporting us. They are carrying our message online, on social media. And that's the support that we care about."