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Experts See Third Party As Unlikely, But Kristol Sees a Path

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Bill Kristol (Wire Services Photo) 

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016 05:40 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In recent weeks, there has been considerable press attention given to the efforts of Mitt Romney, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, "The Weekly Standard" publisher Bill Kristol and other anti-Trump Republicans to recruit a third-party candidate for the fall election.

There is a case to made from recent polls that the U.S. is ready for a major third party. Last week, a Fox News poll among likely voters nationwide showed likely Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson drawing a record 10 percent of the vote (with Donald Trump edging Hillary Clinton by 42 to 39 percent).

Moreover, a just-completed Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 47 percent of voters would consider a generic third party candidate for president.

"The Republican National Committee and the Trump and Clinton campaigns are trying to sort of strangle [the third party movement] in its infancy," Kristol said over the weekend.

"Because they're scared of it."

Kristol, who recently tried to convince retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis to run for president independently, went on to point out that "half of the Clinton voters and half of the Trump voters don't want to be for Clinton or Trump. They're against the other person…. Half the country is open to an alternative."

But experts on ballot access as well as political scientists who spoke to Newsmax agreed that the chances of such a force emerging on the ballot this fall are somewhere between slim and none.

"At this point, those calling for a third party have neither a candidate to rally around nor the time to place a viable third party on most state ballots," said Donald Critchlow, director of the Arizona State University Center for Thought and Political Leadership and author of a forthcoming book on the Republican Party. "They are left with a choice of a lesser of evils, Clinton or Trump or abstaining from voting as a matter of conscience."

As for Romney, Kristol and other proponents of an alternative to Trump, Critchlow predicted: "These conscientious objectors to politics will have as much effect on the political war as conscientious objectors had on any war."

Critchlow's view was seconded by syndicated columnist Michael Barone, one of the co-founders of the "Almanac of American Politics."

"I don't think it's going to happen," he told Newsmax. "Voters have pretty well coalesced on party lines."

As for the time involved in placing a viable third party on state ballots, only one state has had its filing pass so far: Texas, which closed the door on any third party movement on May 9.

North Carolina is the next state, with its filing deadline June 9 and the requirement for ballot position of 89,366 signatures on petitions, or 3 percent of the votes cast in the last election for governor.

Filing in Indiana and New Mexico ends on June 30, with 26,700 signatures (2 percent of the votes cast in the last race for secretary of state) required for a ballot position in Indiana and 15,388 signatures for New Mexico (3 percent of the votes cast in the last race for governor).

Overall, all but four states require submission and certification of signatures for the fall ballot by Labor Day. The exceptions are Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Rhode Island, all of which have their failing deadlines in September.

"That's a lot of hard work for the summer and especially hard when those who want a third party don't have a candidate or any organization so far," veteran election analyst Jay O'Callaghan told me.

Richard Winger, editor of "Ballot Access News," has noted that in some states, an independent presidential candidate can more easily access the ballot by forming a new single-state minor party or affiliating with one already on the ballot.

The problem with that strategy is that there are few substantive minor parties left in the individual states. Those that enjoyed success were usually based around a charismatic personality and faded fast when that personality left the scene.

In Minnesota, for example, the Reform Party, under whose banner Jesse Ventura was elected governor in 1998, split two years later when Pat Buchanan won the national Reform Party's presidential nomination (and Ventura himself left the party). "A Connecticut Party," the vehicle for Lowell Weicker's 1990 election as a third party governor of the Nutmeg State, faded soon after Weicker retired from the governorship in 1994.

"There really aren't any other versions of the New York Conservative Party anywhere," said O'Callaghan, citing the example of the 55-year-old party in New York that has the formidable "Row C" on the state ballot and whose cross-endorsement is sought by Republicans running from White House to state House. (Conservative State Chairman Mike Long recently told us that his state committee was "overwhelmingly for Trump").

(The Libertarian Party did get on the ballot in 48 states in 2012 and so far made it to the ballots in 32 states for '16. At its national convention this weekend, the party is almost sure to give its blessing to former New Mexico Gov. and 2012 nominee Johnson).

Others observers suggested there might be resentment among Republican activists to those most actively pushing the third party vehicle.

"Quite frankly, I find what Mitt Romney is doing distasteful," Stephen Hess, Brookings Institute scholar and author of "The Republican Establishment," told Newsmax, "Look, Republicans gave him their nomination in '12 and now he's trying to finish the person who won the '16 nomination fairly."

Hess, who is also the author of a much-praised book on American political dynasties, pointed out that "at least two of Romney's sons are talked of for political careers of their own. He might think a bit about what damage what he's doing now could cause for them if they decide to run someday. Jeb Bush [who has yet to endorse Trump] already has a son in office [Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush] and another son who might run himself.

"He should think about this as well."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.




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In recent weeks, there has been considerable press attention given to the efforts of Mitt Romney, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, "The Weekly Standard" publisher Bill Kristol and other anti-Trump Republicans to recruit a third-party candidate for the fall election.
bill kristol, third, party, run, viable
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2016-40-25
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 05:40 PM
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