A Third-Party Conservative Entering The Race?

According to reports, conservative columnist Bill Kristol is attempting to convince National Review writer David French to run as a third-party conservative presidential candidate. French, an attorney and a military veteran, boasts no elected political experience. But that reportedly hasn't stopped Kristol, himself a neoconservative thinker and editor of The Weekly Standard, from envisioning him as a potential conservative challenger to Donald Trump and (in all likelihood) Hillary Clinton in November.

You're forgiven if you're not familiar with French, considering his main point of contact with the broader public is his writings for National Review , the decades-old conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1955. In other words, if you're a political progressive, it's unlikely you have much occasion to read French's work, and in an election season that's been full of high-profile names so far, he might be the most anonymous one yet. Even law professor and onetime Democratic candidate Lawrence Lessig was a bit more of a name when he jumped into the race.

But regardless, Mark Halperin reported for Bloomberg Tuesday that French is the mystery name that Kristol's recently been teasing. National political reporter Robert Costa of The Washington Post confirmed Halperin's report that French is currently mulling getting into the race.

Needless to say, this is not the kind of marquee name that you might've expected Kristol to turn to, but this may speak to the chill that's descended over the conservative anti-Trump faction since the belligerent billionaire effectively clinched their party's nomination. The Republican establishment, in short, is abandoning its months of anxiety and uncertainty and lining up behind Trump, meaning any number of prospective candidates from within the GOP would pay a drastic political price for jumping in.

Make no mistake: If a conservative third-party candidate actually managed to have any impact on the race, especially someone relatively low-profile like French, it would most likely only benefit Hillary Clinton. And that's basically taboo in Republican politics. Clinton has been a leading villain in decades of conservative political narratives, so seeming to facilitate her success in any sense is a hugely risky move.

Kristol and his comrades have clearly decided that giving conservatives any possible alternative is more important than party unity, however. And obviously, French is not a current officeholder, nor was there any preexisting buzz that he ever would be. As such, he doesn't have any long-term political considerations to keep in mind when making this choice, beyond just how hectic he wants the rest of his year to be.

Whatever ultimately happens, it's starting to seem fairly clear that the quest for a conservative alternative to Trump is not going well. With all due respect to French, if you're trying to whip up a candidacy, like Kristol has apparently been doing for weeks, it's a long downward slide from 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney to a conservative writer and attorney whom the average American has never heard of. Really, it just speaks to what the grim reality has been for months: Republicans and conservatives missed their chance to stop Trump, and everything else now looks like wishful thinking.