This weekend, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol — who has been trying to recruit a conservative Republican to run an independent candidacy — announced that he had found his man: “There will be an independent candidate–an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” Kristol is known among the political cognoscenti for being wrong about everything. Still, even after applying a standard Kristol hyperbole discount, there was reason to believe he had recruited a Republican of some repute. He had reportedly met with Mitt Romney not long before, and Kristol had compiled a record of success in convincing high-level Republicans to do insanely risky things (invade Iraq with no troops or occupation plan, make Sarah Palin vice-president) that were deeply contrary to their political self-interest. But Mark Halperin and John Heilemann report that Kristol’s candidate is … David French, a blogger for National Review Online. However, French has not yet decided whether to accept Kristol’s overtures.
Kristol’s candidate would have stood no chance of actually winning even if it were a well-known figure like Nebraska senator Ben Sasse or even Romney. Still, a national-level Republican running as an independent might have attracted the funds and publicity to leave some measurable imprint on the race — higher conservative turnout that might impact down-ballot races, or sapping enough votes from Trump in swing states to all but ensure victory for Clinton. And no offense to French, who is arguably one of the ten best bloggers currently writing for National Review Online, but “impressive” and “real chance” are not terms the non-Kristol world would apply to his candidacy.
Trump has virtually consolidated the support of regular Republican voters. It is fitting that the candidate of anti-Trump Republicans would be a professional pundit, since most anti-Trump Republicans seem to be pundits themselves.