Alternate headline: “Trump’s third-party candidacy off to a wobbly start.” Nothing really surprising here, but worth posting for a few reasons. One: Kremer herself was famously grim about Romney’s chances with tea partiers when interviewed by David Brody last winter. That’s not inconsistent with what she says here — beating Obama is top priority, natch — but if Mitt emerges from the field, the media will pounce with endless “can the base support him?” storylines. Kremer’s anticipating that and trying to snuff them before they catch fire. Two: At least one tea-party group, FreedomWorks, is already following a “stop Romney” strategy in the primaries. How aggressive can they be with that (attack ads, media appearances, etc) without raising grassroots ire towards Mitt to the point where some base voters will stay home regardless of the “beat Obama” imperative? Granted, McCain was loathed by the base too and they still showed up, but there was no organized “stop McCain” movement in the primaries (thanks in part to conservative worries about Romney and Huckabee) and no tea party around to worry about compromising its principles.
Third, purely hypothetically: What happens if Romney’s nominated and an attractive “true conservative” candidate decides to run third party anyway? The odds are slimmer than slim, but even Palin wouldn’t give a flat “no” when asked about that the other night on Hannity. She’s not going to run third party, of course — she’s young enough that even if she ran and didn’t win the nomination this time, she wouldn’t want to burn party bridges ahead of another run later — but what about, say, Ron Paul (or Rand Paul)? The depths of conservative disgust towards RomneyCare and Mitt’s other heresies are such that it’s not crazy to think some prominent righty might find nominating him unconscionable and feel obliged to run. What do FreedomWorks and TPE do then — come out strong for Romney anyway, or sit the general election out, or what?