As a refresher, this is what Bill Kristol promised #NeverTrump holdouts over the long weekend:
Just a heads up over this holiday weekend: There will be an independent candidate--an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) May 29, 2016
And the grand reveal is...National Review writer David French? And it's not even confirmed? Don't get me wrong: French is a decorated Iraq war veteran, a strong writer, and a principled conservative whose stalwart commitment to religious liberty is admirable, even if one disagrees from time to time. He's also advanced eloquent, consistent and compelling arguments against both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton throughout the 2016 cycle. He's an impressive man. The impressiveness of his team -- if this presidential run ever actually comes to pass -- remains to be seen. But the notion that a relatively little-known writer could parachute into this race at such a late juncture and have a prayer of winning even a single state is, frankly, preposterous. I'll just re-up what I've written over the last week or so on these questions. First, from this morning:
Splashy national polling data and widespread discontent with the likely choices are one thing, but for anyone to take Kristol's "real chance" assessment seriously, let's see evidence that this third party ticket would be in a strong position to win -- not just compete in, but win -- several states. That is literally the only path to preventing a Trump or Clinton presidency: For this mystery man to carry a number of states in November, vacuuming up enough electoral votes to hold the two major party nominees below 270. Unless and until compelling evidence is presented that this scenario is plausible, let alone realistic, it seems as though any center-right alternative maneuver would only serve to pave Mrs. Clinton's path to the Oval Office. This is especially true in light of the Libertarian Party's nomination of Gary Johnson and William Weld at their convention over the weekend. Both Johnson and Weld are former multi-term GOP governors; their combined executive experience and commitment to shrinking the size and scope of government has already attracted the attention of many disaffected righties. Let's say Romney jumps in too, despite the immense logistical challenges and expired deadlines. The center-right would then be represented by three high-ish profile ballot options, leaving the center-left lane wide open for Clinton.
And last week:
it's simply a fact that for better or worse, the Republican Party is the only viable vehicle for defeating the Left in modern American politics, and the Republican Party's voters have seen fit to make Donald Trump their standard-bearer this year. My inclination is that it's time to allow Trumpism to sink or swim on its own. As enticing as a Romney gambit might be for those of us who cannot fully make peace with Trump as the nominee, why hand Trump's hardcore base a ready-made excuse if he loses? And why do anything to actively assist Hillary Clinton?
In my humble estimation, Trump-averse righties should suck it up and choose from among the three imperfect options that will be on the ballot in all 50 states this fall: (1) Clog your nose, say a prayer, and vote for Trump, (2) down a double tequila shot and support Hillary, or (3) pull the lever for the Johnson/Weld Libertarian ticket. I'm personally inclined toward the latter course of action -- both as a conscience-affirming act in favor of limited government, and as a concrete, if symbolic, rejection of the radioactive options the two establishment parties have put forward this year. So with due respect to the potential candidate, and with strong sympathy for its most prominent backers, I must say that if the French report proves accurate, it will represent an embarrassing fizzle for a 'Never Trump' movement that once seemed potent. Or at least relevant. Instead, it will have roared in like a lion after Indiana, then trotted impotently and inexorably toward the political abyss ahead of California.