The courtship of a potential third candidate to run for president has to date been a tale of disappointment. The effort is feasible logistically and monetarily, but no major figure offers himself or herself. A source very close to Mitt Romney tells Right Turn, “No. Not gonna happen.” Why Romney won’t agree to the role of national rescuer and conservative soul-saver is unknown, but history will judge him and all those who might have stepped forward but chose not to.
There is a point – critics say we passed it weeks ago – when a third candidate run becomes logistically impossible and politically noncredible. That point is right about now, and sure enough #NeverTrump organizer Bill Kristol says to expect an announcement Thursday. (Ideally someone would have stepped forward before too many more Republican office-holders embarrassed themselves by committing to Donald Trump.)
Let’s consider three scenarios: No third candidate runs, a credible third candidate runs or a symbolic run is launched.
We know the nightmare scenario when no real center-right candidate runs: The country gets stuck with either Hillary Clinton or Trump; depressed turnout hands the Democrats both the House and Senate majorities; conservatism and the GOP are permanently besmirched and heretofore identified with ugly, xenophobic haters. The country could very well lurch left for the foreseeable future with no viable conservative party as a counterweight to the increasingly radical Democratic Party. (Clinton is the most conservative Democrat we are likely to see nominated in the next decade or so.)
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If a credible third candidate runs, then the possibility exists for the election to go to the House where such a figure might emerge as the only acceptable choice. In any event, conservatives have a standard bearer, one who can distinguish mainstream conservatism from Trumpism. Such a figure would provide anguished voters with the potential to cast a vote for someone as opposed to against one of the unacceptable choices. Republicans would have reason to turn out, thereby saving a number of down-ticket Republicans.
What about a purely symbolic candidate? By that I mean someone without the skills, preparation, knowledge or stature to pass the commander-in-chief test. A third candidate does not need to be an elected official and certainly not a lifetime pol, but whether experienced in public service, the private sector or military leadership, the candidate must be more serious and knowledgeable than Trump, more ethical than both Trump and Clinton, and more likely to bring about consensus and solve serious problems.
If someone who does not match that profile decides to run, chances for throwing the race to the House disappear. The person does begin to look like a spoiler, giving the loser (almost certainly Trump) grounds to scream betrayal and perpetuate the angry victim mentality that Trump capitalized on in the first place. Conservatives wouldn’t have a certain trumpet to rouse them. The third candidate therefore would provide little help in distinguishing conservatism from Trumpism. In other words, the movement and the party get all of the downside and little or no upside.
In short, it’s time to make a decision. For the sake of country and the GOP, let’s hope it is a plausible, admirable candidate.
The Washington Post