Third-party campaigns have, in recent history, produced mixed results.
WASHINGTON — Mainstream Republicans are hunting for a third-party candidate to run against presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump in the general election, a last-ditch effort that could cost Trump votes and could also pull them away from Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
Third-party campaigns have, in recent history, produced mixed results. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader earned nearly 3 million votes in 2000, carving out a niche for himself in an election where the margin of victory was less than 2 percentage points. Independent Ross Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the vote in 1992, taking 20 million voters away from the two mainstream candidates.
Republicans blame Perot for handing Bill Clinton the presidency that year, while Democrats insist Nader cost Al Gore the White House at the end of Clinton’s second term.
Trump’s rise has split Republicans. The last two Republican presidents — George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — and Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney, the party’s last two presidential nominees, are skipping the Republican convention in July because of Trump.
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Speaker Paul Ryan last week fanned the flames by publicly announcing that he was not yet prepared to endorse Trump. And he was quoted Monday as saying he’s willing to step down as chairman of the convention if that is what Trump wants.
Ryan has invited Trump to meet with House leaders Thursday in an attempt to hasten the unification push Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is now spearheading.
Weekly Standard founder William Kristol is actively courting candidates interested in disrupting the current race. According to media reports, Kristol met last Thursday with Romney, the 2012 standard-bearer, to discuss the possibility of introducing a third-party candidate into the mix.
Kristol has approached Romney and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis about entering the presidential race, but neither appears interested in running at this time.
“Look, it’s a free country. If people want to support Trump, they can do that,” Kristol told CNBC. “But I think it’s a mistake.”
Other names floated include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is now running for the Libertarian Party nomination, is urging everyone to keep an open mind. “I do think that Clinton and Trump are the two most polarizing figures in politics today. And when 50 percent of Americans now declare themselves as independent, I happen to think that they’re Libertarian. It’s just that they don’t know it,” Johnson said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Johnson secured 1 percent of the popular vote as a third-party candidate during the 2012 election, a bid that had no real impact on the outcome.
Could a late-term entry significantly switch things up this time around?
According to a Monmouth University Poll conducted in late March, Johnson could peel off as much as 11 percent of the vote in a three-way race — potentially scoring the most support (15 percent) in Republican strongholds.