Bill Kristol continues to hold on to the dream of a viable, independent candidate to give voters disaffected by the choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump on the November ballot for President of the United States.

Earlier this month he revealed he was actively recruiting candidates and hinted strongly that he thought Mitt Romney might jump in.  That idea may have gone by the wayside but Kristol surprised many observers Sunday evening with a cryptic tweet suggesting that his plans are lining up:

It appears Kristol is not referring to this “impressive, strong team” running on a 3rd party ticket:

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump reacted to Kristol’s announcement in his trademark style:

So who is Kristol referring to?  And why is he teasing an “independent” candidacy versus a “third party” candidate? The distinction is an important one.

This is not just a question of semantics.

Third party means a candidate running under the banner of an existing political party like Johnson with the Libertarian Party or Pat Buchanan when he ran under Ross Perot’s Reform Party. A third party candidacy in 2016 is a viable and significant alternative if a voter feels like they can’t bring themselves to pull the lever for either Clinton and Trump, but the same can’t necessarily be said about an “independent” candidate.

Johnson/Weld running on the Libertarian ticket already have an enormous advantage over whomever Kristol might be dreaming about. The Libertarian Party is already represented on the general election ballot of all 50 states. No new signatures to acquire and no deadlines to worry about. They’re gonna be there on the ballot, guaranteed.

That’s not so guaranteed for Kristol’s imaginary friend.  In many states, the filing deadline to be on the ballot as an independent candidate is fast approaching. In Texas, the deadline has already passed. What’s Kristol’s guy going to do in November, run ads teaching voters how to write-in their name?

It will take an enormous amount of money and organization to be included on enough ballots to really make a difference in November if a candidate is to run outside the construct of a political party. So, what’s the point?

 

NOTE: This post was edited to correct the name of the political party Pat Buchanan ran on in 1996. It was the Reform Party. The author erroneously identified it as the “Liberty Party.”

3rd party candidate podium