A contingent of Republicans who oppose Donald Trump are attempting to draft an independent conservative candidate to run against him in November. However, that plan was dealt a setback on May 16 when one of their top potential recruits, John Kasich, ruled out a third-party campaign. With Kasich out, the possibility of a third-party campaign has shrunk significantly, and it’s not clear if the anti-Trump folks will ever find a conservative candidate of their own to run.
"I'm not gonna do that," Kasich told CNN about the prospects of an independent bid. "I gave it my best where I am. I just think running third-party doesn't feel right. I think it's not constructive." Mitt Romney, one of the leading members of the anti-Trump movement, had personally reached out to Kasich to encourage him to run, according to The Washington Post.
Ever since Trump’s grasp on the Republican nomination appeared airtight, several names keep popping up as potential third-party candidates: Ted Cruz, who clashed bitterly with Trump on the campaign trail and has strong support among grassroots conservatives; Ben Sasse, the freshman Nebraska Senator who’s been one of the most forceful anti-Trump voices within the GOP; Rick Perry, who attacked Trump directly during his own run for the nomination; and Tom Coburn, the former Oklahoma Senator who’s actually indicated a willingness to run.
But there are problems with all of them. Cruz has filed paperwork to run for reelection to the Senate in 2018, which suggests he isn’t planning on running for president again this cycle. Sasse has flatly ruled out a third-party run on the grounds that he doesn’t want to spend the time away from his family, even though conservatives have courted him aggressively. Coburn has seemed open to running, but his low-profile and somewhat bland demeanor make him a less than ideal presidential candidate. And Perry has endorsed Trump, so he's not running against The Donald any time soon.
Kasich was the last man standing in the Republican primary, and probably would have made for an effective third-party candidate. Unlike Cruz or Perry, he could actually have appealed to moderate and centrist voters, and would have had a good chance of winning the all-important swing state of Ohio, of which he’s the governor.
The Republicans behind this effort to draft a third-party candidate aren’t necessarily trying to win the presidency. Many also believe that an independent conservative candidate will bring more right-leaning voters to the polls in general, which would help down ballot Republicans in tough races, conceivably, prevent Democrats from taking back the Senate or the House of Representatives.
But Kasich’s refusal to mount an independent run means the #NeverTrump folks are back on the hunt. Nobody is stepping up to the plate, and at this rate, it’s looking unlikely that anybody will.