Any Republican who was involved in the last presidential primary back in 2012 knows how party propaganda works. Once a candidate has been anointed as the frontrunner, either by choice of the powers-that-be or early voting states, it’s time to rally around them. Further divisiveness could splinter the party unnecessarily and leave the operation walking out of the primary destroyed.
What’s the only thing you could do worse than that? Vote third party, back an Independent, or just stay home in the general.
It’s four years later and supporters of former Governor Mitt Romney are still bitter. Despite mathematics, they blame the libertarians not electing an uninspiring and wooden candidate who just constantly came off flat. It is not the fault of the third party voters though. In terms of electoral votes, President Barack Obama crushed Romney 332 to 206. With the popular vote, President Obama had a comfortable lead over Romney 51.06% to 47.20%.
Johnson had the highest vote total out of any third party candidate and he only hit 0.99%.
Why does this matter now? Republican donors, who carry a lot of influence within the party, have reportedly approached a major Republican consulting firm regarding the possibility of launching a third party run in the event Donald Trump becomes the nominee.
Regarding the research conducted, Politico reports:
The document, stamped “confidential,” was authored by staff at Data Targeting, a Republican firm based in Gainesville, Fla. The memo notes that “it is possible to mount an independent candidacy but [it] will require immediate action on the part of this core of key funding and strategic players.”
This would be an incredible development, but not without precedent. While libertarians are falsely accused of costing Romney the last election, the Republican Party has in the past abandoned its own nominee in favor of an Independent candidate.
Back in 2010 during the large tea party wave that gave the GOP major gains, Joe Miller defeated incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Alaskan Republican primary. Instead of parroting the unity talk, the party came together behind Senator Murkowski and helped boost her to a stunning general election victory as a write-in candidate over Miller and the Democratic opponent.
While Senator Murkowski did win, pulling off such a victory in a national election would be a daunting effort. Ballot access laws are a mess, getting general exposure can be a steep uphill climb, and perception of third party viability is still quite negative. Gary Johnson for example, who was popular among libertarians and those generally disaffected with the two party system, only managed to get .99% of the vote in 2012.
An establishment Republican running third party would have zero chance at winning, for a few reasons. First, those most inclined to vote third party would not throw away their vote on an establishment politician who is running a sore closer campaign. Second, the necessary block of mainstream Republicans would largely be uncomfortable with dividing the vote.
After all, what Republican wants to elect Hillary Clinton?
Apparently the Republican Party is prepared to. At this point, the question becomes not a matter of will an Independent bid happen, but whether or not the majority of the party leaders will stick with Trump or shift to who the donors support. Big money means a lot to both political parties and Republicans are no different. If the donors begin rallying around a moderate alternate to Trump in the general election, it’s possible the shift could occur.
But will this shift result in the next Lisa Murkowski effect, or will it result in the Democratic nominee being elected President by a deeply divided Republican Party?