Giving conservatives a “place to go” this November is the goal of some conservatives who are actively pushing for a third party candidate if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee.
“I think an independent candidacy is totally doable and I think it will happen,” said Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine appearing on ABC’s This Week.
One of the issues facing a third party campaign would be ballot access in all 50 states.
“The ballot access problems are not insurmountable,” said Kristol. “There are two states, Texas and North Carolina, that are an issue. No other states filing deadline is before June 27th. You couldn’t wait until the convention. You’d have to decide after Indiana and possibly after California. I think there will be legal challenges in Texas and North Carolina, that the deadlines are too early. In the 80’s five states were successfully challenged in federal court for having such early filing deadlines.”
The three names you hear the most among the Stop-Trump movement are Sen. Marco Rubio, Gen. Jim Mattis, and Sen. Ben Sasse.
Rubio, who is not seeking reelection this fall, has made clear his distaste for Trump. Max Boot, a foreign policy adviser to Rubio, said, “I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump. There is no way in hell I would ever vote for him.”
Sasse, an up-and-coming GOP leader, has already announced he will not vote for Trump in the fall. On twitter he encouraged a “conservative option.”
Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, says he is not actively seeking to be a presidential candidate, but his name has been widely floated in recent weeks.
Trump is facing huge problems in battleground states where he has alienated several components of the GOP base, from Christian activists, to establishment Republicans like Mitt Romney who says he will not vote for him, to national security experts.
The last two Republican nominees Romney and Sen. John McCain, have announced they will not attend the Cleveland convention. The Bush family, which includes the last two Republican presidents, may skip it too.
Billionaire Charles Koch, a top conservative financial contributor, has called Trump and Ted Cruz “terrible role models” and suggested Hillary Clinton might make a better president.
“I think a lot of patriotic Americans are going to look at this choice, from activists to donors to possible candidates, and say the country deserves better than a Clinton-Trump choice,” said Kristol.