Richard Painter has spent much of the past 13 months calling Donald Trump a treasonous, racist pervert on cable news and Twitter. Now, he is exploring the possibility of helping that pervert gain another loyal vote in the Senate.
On Wednesday, Painter, a former ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, announced that he is forming an exploratory committee for a Senate campaign in Minnesota. Specifically, Painter is considering a run for the seat that was vacated by Al Franken last year, and which is currently occupied by Democrat Tina Smith. Painter is a lifelong Republican, but isn’t certain whether he will run on the GOP ballot line, or the Democratic one, or as an independent.
“I need to think about whether there’s a place for me” in the Republican Party, he told reporters. “I’m going to be considering any and all options,” going on to say that he is “a centrist in many ways — right up the middle.”
Painter framed his campaign as a quest to get the corrupting influence of big money out of politics. Which is a perfectly fine theme for a quixotic, publicity-stunt campaign. The trouble is that Painter’s exploratory committee is all-but certain to find that he has an approximately zero percent chance of winning a Republican Senate primary.
Donald Trump very nearly won Minnesota, and is still beloved by the GOP’s rank and file. Meanwhile, the chances of a lifelong Republican ousting Tina Smith for the Democratic nomination are slim. Which means that if Painter wants to run a vanity campaign through November, he’s going to have to run as an independent. And such a candidacy just might win enough left-leaning voters who enjoy Painter’s MSNBC appearances to throw the election to a Republican — which is to say, Painter’s candidacy just might ensure that Donald Trump gets to keep making lifetime judicial appointments from now until (at least) 2021.
The ethical choice here is clear. Let’s see if Painter’s explorations lead him to it.