There's still time for a serious third-party presidential run

And who might ‘Candidate X’ be? Who knows. Erickson has talked up former Texas Governor Rick Perry as a possibility, but since Perry has already endorsed Cruz, he isn’t publicly entertaining a third-party run. And given that intra-party divisions are, in part, what led to Trump’s dominance in the first place, it might be difficult to get conservatives to rally around a single alternative. “We’ll worry about the candidate later,” Erickson told me.

That won’t be good enough for either the Libertarian or the Constitution Party, neither of which is willing to simply let disaffected Republicans walk in and take over their parties. They view the current chaos in the GOP as a nearly unprecedented opportunity to expand their reach—and as a potential threat. “We don’t want a protest candidate,” said Peter Gemma, a member of the Constitution Party’s executive committee who attended the anti-Trump meeting in D.C. “If there’s some Republican who’s in a snit because Donald Trump has got the nomination or it looks like he has the nomination, that’s a protest. We’re an independent party. We think the elephant is dead.”

The Constitution Party’s nominating convention is next week in Salt Lake City, but Gemma said it was possible for individual state parties to drop their affiliation with the national party and put someone else on the ballot. At the meeting, he said he was open to working with the anti-Trump forces, but he told them that any candidate would have to commit to the party and embrace its platform, which lines up with conservative Republicans domestically but stands in opposition to an interventionist foreign policy. “Name recognition isn’t as good as the policy. You’ve got to agree with the platform,” Gemma said. “We don’t care how fancy the guy looks or how he speaks. It’s, ‘Does he understand and will he run with it? And is he committed to stay there?’”