We go through this every four years. A John McCain or a Mitt Romney get the nomination and conservatives begin agitating for a third party run because apparently losing deliberately has more panache than simply getting beat.
Third party runs aren’t all than successful. The two best examples that are readily available for examination are 1992 and 1996 when a Trump-like H. Ross Perot ran as an independent. What he accomplished was letting Bill Clinton become the first two-term president in American history who did not win a majority of the popular vote either time. But a new day always dawns. Via Politico, Donors ask GOP consulting firm to research independent presidential bid. By the way, there are two words in this headline that give you a clue as to how successful this effort will be. They are “donors” and “consulting firm.”
Conservative donors have engaged a major GOP consulting firm in Florida to research the feasibility of mounting a late, independent run for president amid growing fears that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination.
A memo prepared for the group zeroes in on ballot access as a looming obstacle for any independent candidate, along with actually identifying a viable, widely known contender and coalescing financial support for that person. The two states with the earliest deadlines for independent candidates, Texas and North Carolina, also have some of the highest hurdles for independents to get on the ballot, according to the research.
Over time, states have adopted ballot access rules that make it very difficult for an independent party to either get on a presidential ballot, or once they are on it to stay on it. Perot was able to do this because he could self fund, like Trump, he had a knack for getting media attention and he had a large base of people who believed in him. The problem any GOP donor created candidate is going to have is convincing a measurable number of people that he is worth signing a nominating petition for.
The research points to Texas and North Carolina as early tests for running an independent, conservative candidate against Trump and the Democratic nominee. The candidate would need to gather over 79,900 valid petition signatures in Texas by May 9 and over 89,000 in North Carolina by June 9.
Only two other states have thresholds that high, and gathering petitions can be an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, the Texas signatures would have to come entirely from voters who did not vote in this year’s Democratic and Republican primaries.
By July 15, the independent candidate would need more than 460,000 voter signatures to make the ballot in 11 states. Assuming an April 1 start date, the campaign would have to gather 4,345 valid signatures per day to maintain a steady pace.
This kind of a long-shot at getting on the ballot is not going to appeal to donors. But this is a small problem compared with trying to set up an organizational structure that can actually conduct a campaign because anyone taking part in it will not work in GOP politics again. And note the study doesn’t even ask the question about the chances of the candidate winning. For good reason, Trump is in the lead because about 60% of the electorate is rejecting one or the other of two solidly conservative candidates in favor of moderates or Trump.
Could a person run as a write-in and forget about this? Sure. But write-in candidates in presidential races have a worse track record than a third party.