In the wake of the 2016 election, former vice presidential candidate and long-time Republican digital strategist Mindy Finn may be leaving the GOP — and Washington — altogether.
Finn, who ran alongside independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin last year, told POLITICO editor Carrie Budoff Brown that she longer identifies with a GOP led by President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump’s Republican Party is not a party I recognize,” Finn said, deriding the president as “dangerous” for the country. “It is not a party that I feel very comfortable affiliating with.”
But she hasn’t made the split with the GOP official just yet. “I have not yet deregistered,” Finn told Women Rule, though she added, “I probably will before I vote again.”
The veteran strategist, who worked for former President George W. Bush as well as Mitt Romney, went further with her critiques of the party, delivering harsh rebukes of Republican leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“I’ve largely been disappointed along the way,” Finn said. “They’ve enabled him, in many ways, by when they do the pats on the back. ‘He’s doing a great job. It’s so great working with him. He’s a wonderful leader. We’re more hopeful about America than we’ve ever been because of Trump.’”
When it comes to her own political path forward, Finn, who currently resides in Washington, weighed the possibility of returning to her home state of Texas — especially if she chooses to run for office again.
“I might go back to Texas,” Finn said. “It’s been calling me for a while. I get back as much as I can.”
Listen to this week’s Women Rule podcast for more on Finn, her candid assessment of what went wrong in McMullin’s 2016 White House bid, and more:
2:00 Finn explains how she had no plans to run as a vice presidential candidate in the 2016 election — and how she decided to take the leap just 15 minutes after McMullin asked her to join his team.
But when McMullin first approached her over the phone, she claims she had no idea what was in store for her.
“All along, as we’re having this conversation, talking about what motivated us to even be politically engaged, our policy positions, our philosophical views, our backgrounds, I’m thinking this is to vet me to play Jill Stein in debate prep,” she says. “We get to the end of the conversation and he says, ‘You know, there was something specific I wanted to ask you, and that is, would you consider being my running mate?’ And I probably nearly hit the floor, but I tried to remain calm and I said that it was a surprise; I wasn’t expecting that. And obviously I felt flattered and I would need to think about it.”
18:00 What surprised Finn about being on the presidential campaign trail?
“It’s not as scary as it appears,” she says. “Women voters are eager to have women that they want to vote for. They’re excited about the idea of having a woman.”
There were downsides too — including the emphasis of her wardrobe and appearance.
“I would, in the mornings, often text some of our communications staff and our scheduler a picture of what I was considering wearing and get their advice,” Finn recalls. “I didn’t want it to clash with Evan, and so they might have an idea; they had seen him, what’s he wearing. These are things that I don’t think he had to think so much.”
23:00 Finn explains how she read the media coverage of her campaign – but not all of it.
Of social media, she says, “I like to look at those things, even when we were campaigning. Because I would like to get a signal, a read of how people are reacting…but when I found that it was getting into my head, I would shut it down.”
25:00 Finn analyzes how the campaign misjudged the support then-Republican nominee Trump would have in Utah and across the nation.
Among other factors, she says their third-party run was a detriment to them in the voting booth.
“People supported us. They may even set an intention to vote for us, but still this idea of voting for an independent candidate was very foreign to them,” she says. “And so when they went to the polls, in that last-minute decision, they calculated that it made more sense to vote for one of the main party candidates.”
29:00 Finn expresses her dismay at the direction the Republican party has veered in since the 2016 election.
“I think Donald Trump is dangerous for the country and he’s the leader of the party, so it’s hard to affiliate with the party,” she says. “But beyond that, I feel much more cautious about kind of committing to a party label at a time when our politics are so tribal. I don’t want to contribute to the tribalism.”
As for party leaders like House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Finn says she considers it “dangerous” when they “give deference” to Trump.
But there are some people in the party that she still supports, including Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.
32:00 Finn cautions that the 2018 and 2020 political landscapes “looks very daunting for Republicans.”
She points to the recent special elections in Republican districts which she says were “too close for comfort.”
36:00 Finn discusses her career as a Republican digital strategist and what it was like as a woman pioneer in the field.
When she first started out, she says “I never really thought about the fact that I was really the only woman of that group.” It was only later that she “started to pick up on the fact that it was unexpected.”
38:00 Finn ponders her future in politics.
“Running [for office] made me more likely to want to do it than not,” she says. “I saw that it is a unique platform to provide leadership. It is a unique platform to get a message across that you think it’s important for the country to hear; to move policy and ideas forward like no other.”