By Jim Ellis
June 1, 2016 — Weekly Standard magazine founder and editor Bill Kristol has been banging the proverbial drum for an Independent candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, thus leading to a Memorial Day weekend Twitter war of words. Kristol tweeted that a new “independent candidate – an impressive one with a strong team … ” is emerging, with Trump responding that “dummy Bill Kristol’s” effort will cost the Republicans the presidency and the Supreme Court.
Kristol maintains an independent candidate could still start from scratch at the beginning of June and actually win the race despite the logistics inferring otherwise.
Considering the independent ballot qualification deadlines have passed in many states, acquiring 50-state ballot access at this late date would be nearly impossible. In states where one can no longer qualify, an aspiring candidate would need court intervention to supersede state law, and under what grounds?
When former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was considering an Independent run, for example, his political professional team told him to decide before April 1 if he were to have any chance of gaining national ballot placement. He did. In the last week of March, Bloomberg announced that he would not run.
Simultaneously this weekend, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson was again nominated as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate. Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, Johnson’s choice for a running mate, was awarded the party’s vice presidential slot.
Held in Orlando, and ending yesterday, the Libertarian National Convention featured a universe of 931 delegate votes. Johnson came within five votes of a first ballot victory, and then easily won with 56 percent on the second ballot after the original last-place finisher was eliminated from further competition. Weld fell nine votes short on the first ballot, but then scored only a 50.8 percent win on the second.
The result provides the Libertarian Party with its most accomplished presidential ticket in history. Both Johnson and Weld were twice elected governor in their respective states, and it marks the first time each slot is filled with former elected state chief executives. Johnson, the 2012 Libertarian nominee, was at the time the only former governor ever to represent the party in the national election. He attracted only one percent of the vote four years ago, but did appear on every state ballot but Oklahoma’s.
It appears that Kristol’s main goal in becoming involved with an independent presidential effort is to defeat Donald Trump. While searching for a candidate to back, it appears his vehicle may already exist. The new Johnson-Weld ticket will qualify in all 50 states.
Despite Kristol’s belief to the contrary, any new candidate now coming forward simply isn’t going to gain ballot placement in enough places to be a major campaign factor. In fact, the very reason most states have early ballot qualification deadlines is to prevent a prospective candidate from coming forward without going through a party nomination process or, perhaps more specifically, so a nomination loser in another party can’t then become an Independent candidate in the associated general election.
If Kristol and his allies are serious about de-railing Trump and finding an Independent candidate who could attract slightly less than 10 percent of the vote in several key states, thus disrupting the outcome, they may need to look no further than the 2016 Libertarian Party ticket.