It’s back to the drawing board for #NeverTrump. In fact, it could be said that those looking for an alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton never actually left the drawing board at all. Nearly a week after news leaked that National Review writer David French was considering an independent bid for the presidency, French announced that he was not the right man for the near-impossible task. However, French argued that the path for an alternative exists, and implicitly rebukes those who could succeed for not coming forward:
Given this reality, it would be tempting to say that when it comes to confronting this national moment, “somebody” stepping up is better than nobody. But somebody is not always better than nobody. I’m on record saying that Mitt Romney could win. I believe others could run and win, and would make excellent presidents.
Indeed, the path is there. I spent the last several days with some of the best minds in politics. I learned that the ballot-access challenge can be met with modest effort (by an existing network ready to activate), that the polling for a true outsider independent was better than most people know, and that there are many, many Americans — including outstanding political talents — who are willing to quit their jobs — today — to help provide the American people with an alternative.
But given the timing, the best chance for success goes to a person who either is extraordinarily wealthy (or has immediate access to extraordinary wealth) or is a transformational political talent. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve my country, and I thank God for the successes I’ve had as a lawyer and a writer, but it is plain to me that I’m not the right person for this effort.
I believe with all my heart that there is an American movement ready to both resist the corruption, decadence, and dishonesty of the American elite and restore the promise of the American Dream. But that movement may not emerge for some time, and it might emerge only after further heartache and pain.
Color me skeptical that the path actually exists — at least a path that comes anywhere close to keeping Trump or Clinton from getting to 270 Electoral College votes. French has spent the past couple of weeks doing more research into that question than anyone else would have done, and has a better sense of the resources that may be on call to pull together an independent bid. However, the history of such efforts is daunting even when a candidate has had more resources and time. H. Ross Perot had both, added to a certain level of celebrity and a national following … and didn’t win a single state elector in either 1992 or 1996. Michael Bloomberg understood this in March, even though his personal wealth far outstrips either Trump or Perot’s in the 1990s.
Even if such a path theoretically exists, it would require someone with so much familiarity to the American public that he or she would eclipse the two major-party nominees so dramatically as to convince a broad swath of voters to abandon both parties.Who might actually fit the bill? It would take someone with an Oprah Winfreyesque following, and there just aren’t too many of those people on the Right. David Petraeus might have had that kind of cachet before he got prosecuted for doing on a much smaller scale what Hillary Clinton has done on an industrial scale for four years — deliberately mishandle classified information for his own purposes.
French thinks Mitt Romney could be that man. I agree with French that Romney would make a fine President (as might French, for that matter), even if I might not see Romney as a conservative, but it takes someone who makes a fine candidate to get to the presidency — and even more so as an independent, jumping in at the moment when ballot access is closing in a number of states. Let’s not forget that Romney lost a winnable election in 2012 with the organizational structure and residual loyalties of the Republican Party.
French wisely understood that he had no chance of making an impact on the race. He clearly thinks that someone else could, and his announcement makes it clear he’s waiting for that someone to step up. The fact that Romney hasn’t, and that no one else has in his stead, is a pretty good indicator of the reality that this window passed months ago.