First, there were rumors that Mitt Romney was considering a third party bid—The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol has met with the former Massachusetts governor in May. Then, there was a 50-50 chance that Mitt Romney, or Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and possibly former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, could launch an independent bid. Romney and Sasse both said they weren’t considering such a campaign, but Kristol went on Bloomberg Politics’ Masters in Politics podcast and said the former 2012 nominee “may be coming around to the idea.”
Guy wrote about Kristol’s cryptic Memorial Day tweet, where he said, “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.” Well, the wait is over, and it’s not Mitt Romney—it’s conservative writer David French. And Romney is very open to hearing what he has to say in the coming days (via The Hill):
Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, described French in a tweet as "an honorable, intelligent and patriotic person."
French, a constitutional lawyer and Iraq War veteran, was identified in reports Tuesday as the white knight candidate courted by conservatives opposed to presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Bill Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine who has been leading the search for such a candidate, confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that he has zeroed in on French.
Two Republicans interviewed by Bloomberg, which first reported the news, said French is open to launching an independent bid but hasn't made a final decision. French declined to comment to Bloomberg.
French, who writes for the conservative National Review, penned an article last week slamming Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and calling on Romney, whom French said he campaigned for in 2008 and 2012, to run for president again.
French described Romney as "the only man who combines the integrity, financial resources, name recognition, and broad public support to make a realistic independent run at the presidency."
Romney, who has declined calls to reconsider launching a White House bid, has said he'll look to support an alternate candidate in November to Trump or Clinton.
I know David French to be an honorable, intelligent and patriotic person. I look forward to following what he has to say.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 1, 2016
Prior to the French announcement, you had various stories about how Romney was definitely not the person Kristol was referring to in the tweet. CNN had a source telling them, "No, no, no, no, no. I promise you. No” concerning an independent candidacy.
While French certainly has attractive qualities for a presidential candidate, along with being an excellent writer (I admit I enjoy his pieces), this is a fool’s errand and sort of shows that the Never Trump wing of the GOP is totally out of ideas concerning derailing the candidacy of Donald Trump. It’s over, folks. We had many, many shots to stop Trump in the primaries—but no one seemed to take him seriously. Hence, why most campaigns, notably the Bush camp, did not establish a serious opposition research team until it was all but too late to stop the billionaire’s momentum. Never Trump blew it. Period. Guy’s take on French’s prospects for political success was blunt:
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.
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.
Yet, I still believe there is an agnostic position on Trump. The real debate on the right surrounds whether to vote for the man. That can be decided at the last minute when you pull the lever on Election Day. For now, we know we don’t want Hillary in the White House. So, conservatives still doubtful of Trump can still ponder whether to vote for him, but (in the meantime) should help lob grenades at the Clinton campaign’s talking points and policies. Do everything we can to help fan the flames once those anti-Clinton salvos are fired. Again, we don’t have to be pro-Trump, but I think we're all uniformly anti-Clinton. Yes, indirectly, you’re supporting Trump, but at this point—a roll of the dice sounds a lot better than President Hillary Clinton. Am I happy about this choice? No. But in the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.
An independent bid from the anti-Trump wing of the GOP will surely end with another Clinton in the White House. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, the impact of a third party bid ending with a Clinton win was made explicitly clear during a panel discussion with The Washington Times’ Charlie Hurt, The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, Brittany Kaiser of Cambridge Analytica, and Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company.
Ballot access is another obstacle, one that is virtually insurmountable as many deadlines have passed. The hope, as many have said, is for no one to claim a majority of the Electoral College vote, thereby sending it to the House of Representatives. At the same time, the House GOP would be playing with fire in not supporting Trump should anyone fall short. He’s the nominee. He would certainly get more votes than French—and giving the presidency to someone not picked by the majority of the Republican Party delegates would only reinforce what everyone says about Washington establishment politics. It’s not rational. Let’s not focus on fantasy. Let’s not split the conservative vote. Let’s not dilute our attacks on Clinton.