Donald Trump first brought up the prospect of a third party run in the 2016 presidential election last summer, when he said he might declare as a third party candidate if Republicans weren’t nice to him.
But the tables have turned. A third party candidate is now seen by some as one way to stop Trump from gaining the Republican nomination. A brokered convention seems the most likely strategy, but neither prospect is appealing to Republicans who want to win back the White House.
In the process, however, the fear — even the expectation — is that the result of either a brokered convention or the introduction of a third party candidate by the GOP establishment will be to elect the Democratic Party nominee, almost certain to be Hillary Clinton.
The bigger question is who would be the candidate of choice in either scenario. Some have suggested Mitt Romney, who was the Republican hopeful four years ago and who has surfaced as a strong opponent of electing Trump. Others look to House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, who was Romney’s running mate.
There is fear from Trump supporters, too, that the GOP establishment will try to take the nomination from their candidate in a brokered convention, and if that happens, threats of a third party effort by the Trump faction have surfaced.
It’s not like a third party doesn’t exist. In fact, there are several, and there is a long list of declared third party candidates in this election. Most declare themselves members of the Independent Party, but the list also includes candidates from the Libertarian Party, the Green Party and the Constitution Party, just to name a few.
There is even a manual on how to start a third party. It was created a decade ago and posted online by one Carl S. Milsted, Jr., who describes himself as a physicist and programmer with a doctorate and a strong interest in politics.
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont and a self-proclaimed socialist and registered Independent, considered running as a third party candidate but chose to run as a Democrat because he thought the two-party system was his best bet in the current political climate. He also feared splitting the vote and opening the door for someone like Donald Trump. Sanders said he would not change his mind even if he loses the nomination.
“If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system?” Sanders said in a meeting in July with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “No, I made the promise that I would not and I will keep that promise. And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States.”
But for the GOP the consequences of a third party go far beyond the potential loss of this election. It means ceding the Supreme Court to the Democrats for the next 30 years, as the next president will likely make four appointments on a court now evenly split between liberals and conservatives.
Trump eliminated yet another opponent Tuesday with a devastating win in Florida over Sen. Marco Rubio, who lost by double digits in his home state and suspended his campaign. The GOP field is now down to three, Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who won his state Tuesday but has no chance to reach the required 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination.
Only Trump can mathematically achieve that, but it is a longshot even for him. So, Republicans are preparing themselves for a bitter fight at their convention in Cleveland in June. Meanwhile, both sides are considering the strategy beyond that. A third party candidate is on the table.
[Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP Images]