A conservative ‘third’ candidate vs. Trump, Clinton makes little sense

(AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

How to handle the impending GOP nomination of Donald Trump, which would take an enormous step toward becoming reality if he wins Indiana’s primary tonight, remains a source of much angst in the conservative movement. At the heart of the debate is whether an actual conservative should make an independent run against Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

This debate hinges on a few factors. Some of these are highly implausible — e.g., that a third candidate, despite being on relatively few state ballots, could win enough states to keep either Trump or Clinton from winning 270 electoral votes and thus throw the election to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority would turn on their party’s actual nominee and put this conservative third candidate in the White House. Free advice: Don’t bet the 401(k) on that one.

Others are more worthy of consideration. At the top of that list is this question: Would a third candidate (for these purposes, we’re excluding other parties such as the Libertarians and Greens) make it harder or easier for Republicans to hold onto their majorities in the House and, less likely, the Senate?

It’s crystal clear that Democrats think Trump’s nomination will help them not only keep the White House, but wrest control of Congress back from Republicans. For a preview of this fall’s anti-Trump offensive, watch this:

So there’s a real debate about how to prevent anti-Trump sentiment from bleeding down-ballot. The pro-third candidate argument goes like this: Lots of Republican voters, faced with a choice between Trump and Clinton, will simply choose to stay at home, costing the GOP’s congressional candidates. A third candidate would give these voters more motivation to show up and cast their ballots, perhaps saving the party’s congressional majorities.

I understand that argument, but I disagree with it. That’s because I think a third candidacy would actually make life harder on congressional candidates because they’ll be forced to take a side. Imagine Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, campaigning for re-election this fall, being asked if he supports Trump (his party’s nominee) or whoever was drafted to run as the third candidate. Without a third candidate, he can justifiably say something like, “I support my party’s nominee, but he can speak for himself. I have my own race to run.” With a third candidate, he can’t do that. He’ll be hounded into picking one, and by picking one he’ll alienate those who back the other. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

Turnout will be an issue either way (that goes for Democrats, too). Without a third presidential candidate, at least those Republicans running for Congress will be able to tell Republican and independent voters they should come out and support them as a hedge against either Trump or Clinton. I’m more sympathetic to the argument that a third candidate could articulate an actual conservative message, lest voters believe Trump really represents the political philosophy he’s largely rejected. But I think most of that kind of clean-up will have to be done after the election.

It’s not a matter of liking or supporting or even accepting Trump — as is the contention of critics of a Wall Street Journal editorial today, which argued against a third candidacy for reasons similar to mine. I don’t think any of my readers could mistake me for a Trump supporter. But I do think a GOP-led Congress is the best insurance against whatever bad ideas Trump or Clinton might pursue, and a third candidacy would just create another set of problems for the candidates seeking to maintain those majorities.

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Let me preface by saying I did NOT vote for Trump in the primary election, but I did vote for a Republican candidate.

Saw your print column today, Kyle, or lack thereof. Hard to stomach a candidate who entered the race, played by the rules, and beat a field of what, 16-17 other contenders? Maybe you have become part of the problem, not part of the solution.


bu22
bu22

And neither living Republican president will attend the Republican convention.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

You left wingers do realize that voter turnout is L O W right? Hillary is having trouble beating a 70 year old white socialist who never held a job a day in his life until he ran for senate. 

1: The black voters will not turn out for Hillary like they did Obama.


2: She has HIGH negative poll numbers.


3: She has ZERO accomplishments.


4: She is under FBI investigation.


Trump is going to exploit ALL of those things very very soon.

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

Hillary Clinton   = rich old white hag whose husband raped women. She's accomplished nothing except for being Bills "wife." She voted for the Iraq War, helped create ISIS, got our ambassadors killed in Libya, is under investigation by the FBI and was a horrible NY senator.


I'll take my chances with Trump.

Cobbian
Cobbian

What, even more deadlock of the presidency by obstinancy of a House and Senate controlled by TPublicans who want to rule, not govern.  How have we done in the past few years?  The TPubs can't get it all, the House, Senate, and Presidency, so they will make governance ineffective.   Look where we are, look at how appealing Trump is because he called the TPubs on the way they have been handling governance.  


Sooner or later, we have to get back to the idea that governance requires cooperation, not domination.  We need two parties working together.  Stop sulking, TPubs.  

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@Cobbian


Why do brain dead libs always talk about both sides working together but totally ignore the fact that their idiotic party spent 8 years trying to fight W?

This is another classic example of how stupid the left really is. 



McGarnagle
McGarnagle

So the Republicans nominate celebrity billionaire Donald J. Trump for President of these United States of America ... and we are suppose to say that with a straight face?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@McGarnagle So much for the deep bench huh ?


In the end they settled where they always do. The rich authoritarian white guy. 

EastATLGuy
EastATLGuy

@McGarnagle '


As opposed to the old white hag whose husband raped women? Oh, and she's being investigated by the FBI right now.

Good luck with that.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

I suppose I should comment on-topic and say Kyle's made a pretty compelling argument against either party ever getting behind an ideologically more pure third-party guy/gal.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex I don't think the ideological part is the crux of it. It'd be the same if the "establishment" wanted to run a more moderate candidate. The point is, if you are trying to identify to the same group of voters, you're not making it easier on down-ballot candidates. You're making it harder.

TicTacs
TicTacs

Its the message, don't miss the message....

ScubaSteve
ScubaSteve

Kyle, pretty personal question here so feel free to pass, but who do you plan on supporting given how this has shaken out? I'm genuinely curious.

concernedoldtimer
concernedoldtimer

We have to have a Rebublican....Supreme Court nomination...too too important...

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ScubaSteve Depends on who the Libertarian is. Either that candidate, or I'll leave the top of the ballot blank. I'm not going to vote for either Trump or Hillary.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @ScubaSteve Good for you.


Not saying that because I know it helps the Dems win the WH either.


If Jerry Springer was my party's nominee. I wouldn't vote for him either.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"...if he wins Indiana’s primary tonight,..."

News flash, he won. How's the "anti-Trump partisan" thing working for you now?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@stogiefogey Obviously, this was posted before the results were in.

As for your question: It's working out just fine. My conscience is clear. That's the only thing a voter can control for himself.

DaltonbywayofBickley
DaltonbywayofBickley

I don't disagree with your conclusion, Kyle, but that GOP Congress must engage and fight for something, but just stand against as it has done for eight years.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

R.I.P.


Grand Old Party


Mar. 20th 1854 - May 4th 2016

Caius
Caius

"Turnout will be an issue either way (that goes for Democrats, too)."

Yep. Conservatives are not excited about Trump and liberals are not excited about Clinton. 

So who can put together a great campaign? Trump is a talented candidate but does not listen to anyone but himself.  Clinton is a lousy candidate but has a great staff and she tries, but overcoming lack of political talent is challenging.  If the Democrat is Sanders, he may make it a cake walk.



Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

A third party candidate would have to draw from the majority of Republicans who don't support Trump and the minority of Democrats who aren't pathetic, America-hating moochers.

Caius
Caius

@lvg @Lil_Barry_Bailout I would say it is a losing point to call someone a "pathetic America-hating moocher" one day and ask them to vote your way the next day.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

In case I wasn't clear enough, those dead-enders will be voting for the corrupt hag.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Real Americans who pay the bills wish it were a fiction.

Handouts to Democrats crowd out spending on actual government responsibilities, too.

Dawgonnit
Dawgonnit

One follow up.... The mask has been pulled off Indiana as a Conservative Family Values State that has voted GOP many times. It's really a suburb of Chicago.  My instincts back in 1992 was for Bush to dump Quayle and go for either Jack Kemp or Pete Wilson in California and take it right to the Democrats. Maybe California would still be GOP.  Leadership means sometimes you have to be Bold...I hope Ms. Florina understands she had the problem analyzed right at the end...But why didn't the rest of the field have it right all along....Concentration of Power is dangerous in a Free Society.....If my message had gotten through to the Bush's they would have been the follow through of Reagan.

Dawgonnit
Dawgonnit

I think it makes sense.  Reagan fought till the end and didn't quit at least twice. He believed in uprooting this concentration of power from the Eastern Establishment to the whole Country. It worked. He understood you can't build up the American Identity without building up the Chrisain identity .  Hitler tried building up the German Identity without building up the Christain Identity and we see what happened.....70 million dead, 6 million jews.  Trump wants to take us back to the 1930's Republican Party of protectionism and neo-isolationism which lead to World War II.  Perot ran as a third party and knocked California into the Democratic colum and it hasn't come back into GOP hands. 

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

Cruz drops out. The Republican nominee for President in 2016 will be Donald Trump.


Own it.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

And it's working out so well!

Education, health care, income inequality, race relations, national debt--all in decline because of people who think like YOU!

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

And Hillary is just as corrupt and incompetent today as she was yesterday.

Possibly worse than Trump.

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

@Lil_Barry_Bailout 

Speaking of which, what are Trump's plans to improve "education, health care, income inequality, race relations, national debt"?

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

Not to worry.

Hillary's Supreme Court choices will make all that better for you.

#stallmerrick

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@332-206

Funny how the leftists will both cheer the infringement of Constitutional liberties, and pretend to not understand the phrase "liberal fascism".

Of course, it doesn't take a lot of brainpower to be a leftist.

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @332-206

Riiiight...


From Thomas Edsall's column today:

"One of the largest shifts is among college-educated voters, who are expected to defect from the Republican Party by the millions if Trump is the nominee. In 2012, President Obama lost college-educated voters by four points; this year, according to Public Opinion Strategies’ analysis, Clinton will win them by 29 points."