Another “private” meeting that’s so public, even lefty rag Salon knows about it. This one will follow Rudy’s speech to the Values Voter Summit by a few hours, so there’s a very, very slim chance it’ll turn into a “well, maybe he’s not so bad” conversation.

Very, very, very slim.

“There will be further exploration of what is to be done,” said Howard Phillips, the president of the Conservative Caucus, who participated in the Salt Lake meeting. “And there will be some discussion of who would be a viable independent candidate.”

Conservative circles have been buzzing for weeks about the possibility of a third-party bid, which remains a heavily disputed idea even among religious conservatives. On Wednesday, longtime conservative leader Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, published a column laying out three requirements for a successful third-party bid: major defections of elected officials from the Republican Party, the financial backing of an independently wealthy individual, and the support of a major news organization, like the Fox News Channel or the Wall Street Journal. “If the walkout of Republicans grassroots were dramatic enough and if it enticed major figures to join, which in turn caused millionaires to follow along and caused major media continually to provide favorable treatment, a third party could work,” Weyrich argued in the article.

In other words, Weyrich thinks social cons should be in it to win it, not just to make a show of withholding their vote from Rudy. Who could they get to run as an independent, though, who might stand a chance of attracting “major figures” away from the GOP nominee and making a race of it? The only person of that stature I can think of is Newt, but I can’t see him jumping in and splitting the conservative movement knowing the Clintons will be the ones to benefit. Huckabee’s a decent match with the religious right on policy positions, but he’s also getting crushed in fundraising by Ron Paul. What’s a disgruntled social con to do?

Exit question: Did somebody say successful third-party bid, god help us?

Update: Never mind that Huckabee third-party run. Richard Viguerie, who attended the earlier “private” meeting of social cons in Salt Lake City, says Huck’s not conservative enough either.