Despite the establishment near-unanimously opposing him, GOP strategists are coming to the conclusion that Donald Trump will likely win the GOP nomination. That leaves establishment Republicans considering their options within the party process: try a contested convention, vote for Bernie Sanders or, more likely, Hillary Clinton in the general election, or just stay home.
Some #NeverTrump Republicans, however, are considering going outside the party and supporting a third-party candidate. While the work would need to begin now, a challenger to Trump and the Democratic nominee could seize on both “Clinton fatigue” and low favorability for Trump.
Here’s a look at what might happen:
What Would Need to Happen
In most other years, beginning a third-party run would be considered almost impossible. It’s extremely challenging to get a significant number of votes as a write-in candidate, and several states have made getting on the ballot extremely challenging:
- 13 states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Montana and South Dakota) have deadlines for collecting signatures that either have already passed or are not reachable for a candidate just starting.
- 47 states have some version of a sore loser law, which prohibits a candidate going a certain distance in a party’s primary race from running on the general election ballot as an independent. Candidates like Marco Rubio would be affected, but names like Rick Perry, who dropped out before the primaries, could still enter.
That said, Trump’s rise has made this year far from the usual, and the dislike he inspires in everyone but his fans could give way to a grassroots movement.
Weekly Standard writer Jay Cost stated that he’d gotten “clear signals” from a few potential third-party candidates:
2012 nominee Mitt Romney has already openly denounced Trump, leading to speculation that he might be available to challenge him:
Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan and Ben Sasse have been equally vociferous in their denunciation. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is popular in conservative circles and even led a few national polls before Trump entered the race. There is also Marco Rubio, who has been the choice of the Republican establishment since before the primaries began but has the aforementioned ballot issues.
Wild Card: Michael Bloomberg
Businessman, former New York City mayor and gun control activist Michael Bloomberg is reportedly weighing a third-party run of his own, though sources close to him state the odds as “very, very low.” If he can be convinced otherwise, Bloomberg could be an interesting proposition for #NeverTrump Republicans. He ran a notoriously liberal city for eight years as a Republican and can beat Trump at his own game with a sterling business reputation. That said, his position on guns and his previous departure from the Republican Party may scare off some Republicans, especially given Trump’s strong support among “conservative” voters unlikely to back a gun-control candidate.
Should Bloomberg surprise election insiders and run, Republicans would very likely still run their own candidate, creating the prospect of a four-party race.