A group of prominent conservatives are bashing Bill Kristol's suggestion Tuesday that National Review writer David French run as an independent — and they are looking for their own alternative to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
"We're not going to be jumping on board with what Kristol is doing," a person involved in the discussions told The Hill
Wednesday. "We learned about this from the media along with everyone else."
The group, which the Hill identified as Conservatives Against Trump, were surprised by Kristol's announcement because French has a fairly low profile, according to two people involved in the talks.
"This is like flipping open the phone book and picking someone on page 325," one of the sources said.
Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, has long railed against Trump's bid for the GOP nomination.
47, a Tennessee resident, is also a constitutional lawyer, an Iraqi War veteran who has been awarded the Bronze Star, an author of several books and is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve.
In a Weekly Standard column
scheduled to run next week, Kristol praised French's recent column calling on Mitt Romney to run against Trump.
"There is just hope — however slim — of avoiding this national disaster: America needs a third option," Kristol quoted French as saying.
However, Kristol said at the end of his piece that "the leader of the resistance could turn out to be someone who hasn't yet held elective office."
French teased the possibility on Twitter Wednesday:
According to the Hill, the conservatives' group includes Erick Erickson, the writer and radio talk-show host; South Dakota business executive Bob Fischer; Bill Wichterman, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee; conservative columnist Quin Hillyer; and conservative strategist Liz Mair.
Erickson declined to comment to the Hill, but said on in a column on his website
that "I would vote for David French or even write him in."
He also said that Kristol "pushed David French into the arena, but to his credit French has not run out of the gates.
"He recognizes a lot of people detest both Hillary and Trump and want to vote for someone as opposed to voting against someone or settling on someone who offends core principles.
"But let's be realistic about this," Erickson added, saying that French lacked name recognition and that he would have to raise at least $250 million just to get on the ballot — "then he'd have to raise a billion dollars more."
One of the sources told the Hill that several group members met Wednesday by conference call — without Erickson — and that "we're still continuing our recruitment effort."
Other conservatives reacted harshly to Kristol's suggestion.
"I just wanted to go pound my head against the wall," Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, told the Hill. The group has about 100,000 members.
"I'm sorry, David's a great guy but he's not impressive as a presidential candidate," he said. "Where's the team? I haven't seen anything about a team.
"Bill Kristol jumped the shark on this one."
But Hillyer, a Conservatives Against Trump member, told the Hill that it was "too early" to pass judgment on French.
"I am wholeheartedly supportive of David French as a candidate," he said. "I do not know him other than by reputation.
"He is Bronze star winner and a brilliant constitutional lawyer," Hillyer added. "Obviously, he does not have a big national name.
"He will have to make a good first impression — and we'll see if he does."
Brian Darling, the conservative strategist and former adviser to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, raised the specter that Kristol might well be trying to put Democrat Hillary Clinton in the White House.
"I worry that Kristol's strategy is to elect Hillary," he told the Hill. "Hillary's foreign policy is much closer to his foreign policy than Donald Trump's foreign policy."
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