The conservative political donor John Kingston, a supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012, is still putting money into efforts to find an independent presidential candidate for November, despite no #NeverTrump candidate emerging as of yet. Kingston and his team are spending money to secure a place on the ballot, hoping that an independent candidate will soon take up their offer to run for president.
Conservatives who aren’t happy with the nomination of Donald Trump have so far failed to find an independent presidential candidate. Prominent backers such as conservative pundit William Kristol have tried, and potential independent candidates such as David French have flirted with the idea but ultimately turned down an independent presidential bid. Even so, Kingston and his small network of #NeverTrump conservatives have found a way to continue the independent campaign, minus the candidate.
Rules for independent candidates vary state-by-state. Some states require independent presidential candidates, as well as third-party campaigns, to pay a fee in order to have a place on the November ballot. Most states, however, require that independent presidential campaigns collect registered voter signatures.
Several states, including populous Illinois, have ballot access deadlines for independent candidates coming up in late June. In other states, such as Texas and North Carolina, Kingston’s #NeverTrump team may bring lawsuits against restrictive ballot access laws, so that their independent presidential candidate could get on the ballot through the courts. Rather than stopping his #NeverTrump independent campaign effort, conservative donor John Kingston is directing money toward these independent ballot access hurdles, even while his team works to find their #NeverTrump independent candidate.
Others aren’t waiting for a white knight #NeverTrump independent candidate. Several Republican Senators have either rescinded previous endorsements of Trump or refused to endorse him at all, lending significant credence to the #NeverTrump rallying cry. Senator Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, has caught flack from members of his party for saying that he might vote third-party, for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Sasse even insinuated that he might leave the Republican Party for the Libertarians.
— Valente Montes (@Valente_Montes) June 13, 2016
Yet conservative donor John Kingston would like voters to have the choice of an independent conservative candidate, rather than choosing between Trump, the Libertarian Party, or Hillary Clinton (The Green Party’s Jill Stein and other independent candidates tend not to be a consideration of anti-Trump conservatives). Kingston’s close ties to Mitt Romney might suggest that he would favor Romney, who has been highly critical of Trump, as an independent #NeverTrump candidate. Thus far, Romney has denied any interest in an independent presidential bid.
Regardless of who the candidate will be, Kingston has brought in big names from independent candidate Ross Perot’s 1992 and 1996 presidential bids. Perot, a self-funded billionaire, was the most successful independent presidential candidate in the past thirty years or more. In 1992, he received almost 20 percent of the vote, although he did not win any electoral votes. Kingston is hoping that some of the lawyers and pollsters from that independent campaign might have the expertise needed to secure a place for an independent presidential candidate in the 2016 general election.
Even if Kingston’s team only secures an independent presidential ballot line in a few populous states, that could be enough to influence the election. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have been polling as high as 12 and 5 percent, respectively. A #NeverTrump conservative independent candidate could certainly reach those numbers, even if they don’t reach the ballot in all 50 states. With several relatively strong independent and third party candidates, it’s anyone’s guess who might win in November.
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