Later this week top conservatives will meet to plot a third-party candidate should Donald Trump emerge the big winner in the Ides of March primaries on Tuesday, according to
POLITICO Tiger Beat on The Potomac. Top conservatives gather to plot third-party run against Trump:
Three influential leaders in the conservative movement have summoned other top conservatives for a closed-door meeting this Thursday in Washington D.C. to talk about how to stop Donald Trump and, should he become the Republican nominee, how to run a third-party “true conservative” challenger in the fall.
The organizers of the meeting include Bill Wichterman, who was President George W. Bush’s liaison to the conservative movement, Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman and longtime conservative convener, and Erick Erickson, the outspoken Trump opponent and conservative activist who founded RedState.com.
“Please join other conservative leaders to strategize how to defeat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination,” the three wrote in an invitation obtained by POLITICO that recently went out to conservative leaders, “and if he is the Republican nominee for president, to offer a true conservative candidate in the general election.”
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, two days after winner-take-all Florida and Ohio vote in what many Republican operatives believe will determine whether Trump is on an unstoppable march to the nomination or is likely to stall out short of the 1,237 delegates he needs.
One person involved in the gathering described it as in the “embryonic” stages.“ It’s not like there’s a royal grand plan that’s going to be unfurled,” this person said. “People aren’t giving up on the Republican Party yet.”
Still, Wichterman, Fischer, and Erickson represent three bold-faced names to host such a gathering. All three have deep ties, in particular, to the social conservative movement, which Ted Cruz has tried to unite behind his candidacy.
Wichterman, in addition to his top job for Bush, served as a senior adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He now works for Covington, a law firm in Washington D.C.
Fischer, in 2012, helped bring together a group of more than 200 conservatives from across the country to unite around Rick Santorum’s candidacy. An event in Houston he put together raised $1.8 million in a day.
And Erickson, who has sparred publicly with Trump for months online and on his radio show, has previously said, “I will not be voting for Donald Trump at all. Ever.” (#NeverTrump)
Other GOP donors, who are interested in exploring the possibility of challenging Trump, recently commissioned a study on the feasibility of launching a last-minute, independent bid.
These guys may not have “given up on the Republican Party yet,” but Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger, continues her call to scrap the GOP and to start over with a new party. Let’s scrap the GOP and start over:
The lowest moment of last week’s debate — maybe the lowest of the election and in the history of the GOP — came before the debate, when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pledged that the RNC “is going to support the nominee, whoever that is, 100 percent.” This came on a day in which Donald Trump’s campaign, despite an eyewitness and audio evidence, denied that its manager strong-armed reporter Michelle Fields — and then savaged her as “delusional.” It comes on a day when violence yet again occurred at another Trump rally, violence that Trump has made light of or encourages (as Jake Tapper ably pointed out). It comes after a boatload of information has revealed Trump’s penchant for lying and misleading consumers. It comes when Trump has refused to turn over his tax records, preventing voters from seeing his real financial picture.
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Priebus, unfortunately, turns out to be a functionary who is entirely unwilling to question, let alone condemn, the vile conduct of the front-runner candidate. The RNC now stands for no principle and upholds no standard of conduct. It exists merely to win. In doing so, it loses conservatives of good conscience who believe a party is a receptacle, a vehicle for ideas that advance the country’s well-being.
The sort of soulless, amoral stance displayed last night toward a figure as dangerous as Trump suggests that whether Trump becomes the nominee or not, a new center-right party is required, one that specifically rejects Trumpism. A party is needed that embodies everything that Trump is not — inclusive, ideas-driven, programmatic, dedicated to the rule of law, rational, optimistic — for those who believe that 21st-century liberal statism is not the cure for what ails the United States.
If by some small miracle a non-Trump nominee wins, it will be essential to, in essence, start anew, with new party leadership.
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If Trump gets the nomination, Republicans who regard Trump’s message and conduct as wholly unacceptable will be obligated to leave the party, withhold their financial support and refuse to vote for him. In the short run, it means finding a third conservative candidate who does not excuse despotic repression of dissidents, put the United States at odds with the entire Muslim world and advocate ordering troops to kill noncombatant women and children (a war crime). In the longer run, it means starting a different center-right party, leaving the GOP to the bigots, the con men and the fans of dictators.
A third candidate is not likely to win in November, but fielding a candidate will be essential in order to turn out regular Republicans for down-ticket candidates. The excuse that a third candidate would help Hillary Clinton is misplaced. As the polls (the real ones, not the ones Trump imagines) make clear, Clinton is going to crush Trump, even in a one-on-one contest.
Moreover, #NeverTrump does mean something, namely that he cannot be the president. Ever. Someone so lacking in character, knowledge and respect for the rule of law must lose; no person of good conscience should enable him to reach the White House. A third candidate, in other words, will not make a Clinton victory any more likely, but it could save the Senate and begin the process of reformulating the party for conservatives of goodwill.
The “Party of Lincoln” ceased to exist many years ago. What is the Republican Party today in name only may finally be coming to an end, forcing a political realignment that we have not seen since 50 years ago when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the GOP embraced the divisive Southern strategy.