How late is too late for an independent or third-party presidential run?
That question is becoming paramount as the Republican Party barrels through its primary season bitterly divided and with the chances growing that it will open its July convention without a nominee in hand. Conservatives resolutely opposed to a Donald Trump presidency have been investigating a third-party bid for weeks, hoping that if they can’t rally the party behind Ted Cruz then at least they’ll be to give the Never Trump movement an alternative not named Clinton in November. And the recent, if hardly surprising, demise of the paper-thin “loyalty pledge” that Republican candidates signed last year means that either Trump or Cruz could conceivably mount an independent campaign if they lose the GOP nomination in Cleveland.
The short answer is that no, it’s not too late for a third-party or independent run, and it might even be possible for someone as wealthy and well-known as Trump to launch a serious campaign as late as July. (Note: Serious does not necessarily mean winning.)
But for the anti-Trump forces scrambling to find a conservative alternative, time is very much running short.
The most organized Never Trump group includes Erick Erickson, the Georgia-based conservative activist and radio host, and William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard. They met in Washington last month with about a dozen other supporters, and Erickson said another meeting is planned for next week. They settled on a two-track strategy of trying to deny Trump the GOP nomination while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a third-party bid if they can’t. With Trump stumbling recently and Cruz defeating him in Wisconsin, the group is, for the moment, focused more on stopping him in Cleveland. For Erickson, that means trying to rally the party around Cruz, a candidate who many members of the anti-Trump GOP establishment despise nearly as much as Trump. Yet as Erickson acknowledged in a Monday phone interview, “there is a real risk if we wait too long.”