Third-Party Threat Now an Anti-Trump Weapon, Too: Maybe All the Way to the U.S. House

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After threatening to run as a third-party candidate if he is treated "unfairly," Trump could face a party-splitting threat as the GOP nominee.

It’s been obvious for a while that the day of reckoning for Republicans and Donald Trump is arriving soon. According to Politico’s Shane Goldmacher, some conservatives are serving notice that they intend to start preparing for the contingency of a Trump nomination with some radical options.

Three influential leaders in the conservative movement have summoned other top conservatives for a closed-door meeting this Thursday in Washington D.C. to talk about how to stop Donald Trump and, should he become the Republican nominee, how to run a third-party “true conservative” challenger in the fall.

The organizers of the meeting include Bill Wichterman, who was President George W. Bush’s liaison to the conservative movement, Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime conservative convener, and Erick Erickson, the outspoken Trump opponent and conservative activist who founded RedState.com.

It’s an audacious move but one that makes some sense. Up until now the third-party threat that’s been held over the GOP has been Trump’s, inhibiting party leaders from plans to stop Trump at the convention via manipulation of rules or second-ballot deal-making. This counterthreat could be intended to brace the spines of Republicans who may if Trump does well tonight be inclined to throw in the towel. But it could also be intended to put a conservative-movement stamp on the anti-Trump coalition to head off any talk of John Kasich or someone who’s not a candidate becoming the alternative nominee. Erickson is firmly in Ted Cruz’s corner. Wichterman has been a social-conservative adviser to Marco Rubio, but is thoroughly a “movement” guy, and Fischer’s closely associated with the Christian Right. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this is a stealth Cruz operation. 

Who would these birds choose as a third-party candidate if the time for idle threats passes and Trump wins the nomination? Nobody with a future in the Republican Party would dare run against the GOP nominee and risk bearing the burden of whatever godless socialistic madness gripped the country during a Clinton or Sanders administration. Maybe some conservative movement figure who is not currently in office or planning to run for anything else could step up, like, say, the Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint. Carly Fiorina has some time on her hands. Or perhaps if all else fails Erickson could carry the torch. He strikes me as the sort of guy who wouldn’t mind seeing his name on a bumper sticker, and after all, he has three and a half years of government experience as a member of the Macon, Georgia, City Council!

But Erickson has also dropped a hint about this cabal’s thinking that potentially makes it more serious — and even ominous — than one might originally imagine. Here’s a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway on possible strategies:

November turnout by Republican voters is the main worry. The idea would be to put a stalwart Republican up as a third-party candidate, in order to give non-Trump Republicans a reason to go to the polls.

Two routes beckon: Establishment of a new party, and going through the process of getting on the ballot in several states (getting on all would be near-impossible); or reaching an agreement with an existing party that already has ballot access. The Constitution Party, for instance.

That would be the theocratic wacko-bird party founded by the late Howard Phillips. But I digress:

Erickson said that, even if the effort focused on a single state – Texas perhaps – that might be enough to deprive Hillary Clinton of an electoral college majority. The president would then be chosen by the U.S. House, which presumably would remain in Republican hands.

In case you’ve forgotten your distant U.S. history, under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution if no candidate wins a majority of the presidential electors, then the U.S. House, with each delegation having one vote, can elect a president from the top-three electoral-vote winners. That would presumably be Clinton (or Sanders), Trump, and then whomever the cabal members are supporting. With or without the kind of “corrupt bargain” that elevated John Quincy Adams to the presidency over Andrew Jackson in 1924, anything could theoretically happen.

I guess the possibility of a “contested convention” just isn’t enough craziness for one election cycle, is it?