Conservative-Backed Third Party Push Will Have to Wait
Policy + Politics

Conservative-Backed Third Party Push Will Have to Wait

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

A nascent effort to organize a third-party bid by a conservative candidate as an alternative to Donald Trump appears to have been put on the back burner – at least until the Republican National Convention, according to a statement from the organizers.

Activist and pundit Erick Erickson, who has feuded with Trump since the billionaire’s first debate performance in August, helped to organize a meeting of long-time conservative donors and grassroots organizers in Washington yesterday.

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Erickson, who hosts a radio show, and founded the popular conservative blog RedState, was the most visible of the group of organizers, which also included former George W. Bush adviser Bill Wichterman and South Dakota businessman Bob Fischer.

On his show Wednesday, Erickson had argued passionately for a third party run against Trump, in which Republicans unhappy with The Donald could offer a “true conservative” alternative.

His point, boiled down to its essence, was that if Trump is the Republican nominee, he will lose to Hillary Clinton, and in doing so will drag down-ballot Republicans, from US Senators to candidates for the local school board, to defeat with him. This will happen, he said, because a large number of Republicans who simply refuse to vote for Trump won’t show up at the polls at all in November, depriving other Republican candidates of their votes.

Therefore, he argued, it is essential for conservatives worried about preserving the party below the level of the president to offer Republicans repelled by Trump a conservative alternative who could attract them to the polls. He dismissed arguments that running a third party candidate would help the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, by arguing that Clinton is bound to win with or without a third party.

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But after the meeting, Erickson published a statement from the participants on his new website that suggested the others in the meeting weren’t quite ready to make the leap to a third party yet. The statement included a vague call for a “unity ticket” and for all former candidates who have won delegates to encourage their supporters to stay with them on the first ballot, until the majority of delegates are released from the requirement that they vote for the candidate to whom they were originally bound.

“We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party,” The statement said. “If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.” (This was a reference to Trump’s warning that there could be riots if he is denied the nomination after winning a plurality of the delegates.)

“We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot. Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump. Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.”

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Later, in an interview with Fox News, Erickson said that the consensus at the meeting was first to try to persuade the remaining two candidates, Florida Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to join forces.

“There's a strong coalition looking at going to the existing candidates, Cruz and Kasich, saying you need to cut a deal and find a unity ticket within the Republican Party,” he said. “The final fallback option would be a third party, but the consensus is everyone would rather settle this on the convention floor.”