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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Why real conservatives should vow #NeverFrench

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from Bill Kristol and the #NeverTrump movement when they promised to put forward a qualified conservative alternative candidate to run against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this fall, but I thought they’d do better than this.

In answer to the multitude of critics who said they were merely bluffing, Kristol and crew are intending to roll NeverFrenchout David French to run for president as an independent.

Dana Bash and Eric Bradner of CNN report, “Bill Kristol's white knight independent presidential candidate is a fellow conservative writer with no national name recognition: David French…

“French is a writer for another conservative publication, National Review, and a constitutional lawyer. He's also an Iraq war veteran and a Bronze Star recipient.”

When I say “do better than this” above, I am not impugning David French. Unlike 99.9 percent of America, I have actually heard of David French, read his stories in National Review often and have even used them on occasion for this column. I haven’t taken much from French’s work lately as he obviously is part of the #NeverTrump group whose sole reason for existence has devolved into convincing people not to participate in this year’s election.

Only now, with French as the figurehead, #NeverTrump is saying people should participate, but by throwing away their votes on a candidate who might be on the ballot in some states but has absolutely zero-point-zero chance of being elected.

By those odds, even Libertarian Gary Johnson’s candidacy looks promising. His chances of victory have to be at least zero-point-one.

(Note: Here is Nate Silver’s treatment on the independent candidate issue from a couple weeks ago, though he doesn’t address the percentages of success directly.)

I have argued all along that #NeverTrump’s only opportunity to affect the outcome (after Trump clinched the nomination, at least) would be to find a prominent Republican/conservative to run on their independent ticket. That person would need to have near universal name recognition, an apparatus to quickly raise money and hire what’s left of the unemployed campaign operation expertise that hasn’t yet found a home with Trump or Clinton.

Let’s just say the talent pool must be rather shallow at this point. Ted Cruz exited the race after the Indiana primary a month ago and if the #NeverTrump independent effort had started on May 4, it’s conceivable they might have had some success in getting people onboard to help with their campaign.

Now, there’s no way. But then again, you’d still need a candidate.

No such announcement was made back then because no sane person wanted the job. Senator Ben Sasse said the movement needed someone who could devote six unrelenting months to the campaign effort in order for it to succeed, something he was unwilling to do personally.

Ditto for Mitt Romney, who was probably the one man who could actually make a case for running a legitimate campaign under the #NeverTrump banner. But even Romney must know his effort would ultimately be in vain, so why waste another five months of his life – and millions more of his fortune -- trying to drum up support for an idea that would never come to pass?

For his part, Romney could see supporting the notion of a French takeover. Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “Mitt Romney admitted late Tuesday he is open to the idea of attorney David French mounting a third-party presidential run.

“The former 2012 GOP nominee tweeted a subtle showing of support.”

Romney’s Tweet said, “I know David French to be an honorable, intelligent and patriotic person. I look forward to following what he has to say.”

Other #NeverTrumpers’ reaction was similarly tepid…Erick Erickson said he would vote for French if he’s on the ballot in Georgia (where Erickson lives), but spent most of his daily column savaging Trump some more and then arguing that perhaps there shouldn’t be any independent candidate at all.

I’m not exactly sure what Bill Kristol said to David French to convince him to be the sacrificial lamb of the increasingly stupid and irrelevant #NeverTrump movement. By agreeing to run as an underfunded and unknown independent candidate, French has basically agreed to beclown himself in front of the whole country for the next five months.

Assuming French will get any media coverage at all after the party conventions this summer, it will be token and almost certainly come with a sympathetic tone, like, “Hey, this guy is running for president on a platform of opposing Donald Trump. Here he is on the Today Show, since we couldn’t find someone else more newsworthy for the segment.”

Who is going to come to his campaign rallies? What magic is he going to offer to entice people to not only show up, but volunteer to work for his campaign? And most importantly, who is going to pay for all of this? Will wealthy donors really be willing to throw their money away into a certain-to-fail enterprise?

Personally, I did not support Donald Trump in the Republican primaries and still have serious reservations about him as one of the two people who, barring some unforeseen circumstance (or indictment) will be our next president. But to borrow a line from the movie Braveheart, “So how does it help us to join the side that is slaughtered?”

And slaughtered (electorally speaking), French will be. He will become much more well-known and his writing career may take off because of this whole affair, but he more likely runs the risk of being remembered as the laughingstock of 2016.

No one’s saying anyone has to sell his soul to Trump going forward. But that’s where the fight is, in convincing the Republican nominee that his best interest is in advancing conservative and liberty-oriented solutions to America’s many problems. The Constitution itself already provides the answers. We just need to get Trump to start asking the right questions.

Who’s going to do that, Bill Kristol and David French? I think not. Real conservatives should take on a new motto: #NeverFrench.

Not all of #NeverTrump is in a rush to adopt French as their new language

While #NeverTrump folks have not yet taken to the hashtag #NeverFrench, there is some evidence that Bill Kristol’s attempt to slip the National Review writer into the national conversation isn’t being met with a lot of willing takers from their group.

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports, “A group of prominent conservative activists, including writer and radio host Erick Erickson, aren’t satisfied with Bill Kristol’s suggestion of David French as a third-party candidate and are still looking for another alternative to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“The activists are working separately from Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, who favors French, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.”

What, an alternative to the alternative? This is getting nuts, people.

As I suggested above, there never was any indication the nebulous #NeverTrump faction could agree on French or anyone else to represent them. That’s the main problem with being associated with a group of people opposing someone or some issue – all they can agree on is the fact they don’t like that particular person or issue.

I have been critical of #NeverTrump for their failure to unite behind Ted Cruz when they conceivably could have helped him and also for the fact they don’t really appear to stand for anything other than sheer abhorrence of Donald Trump as an individual.

Everyone knows Trump has several truckloads of baggage following him wherever he goes. Similarly, everyone knows he’s been more like a Democrat than a Republican in the past and he doesn’t seem to be ideologically grounded in any way.

But couldn’t the same be said for #NeverTrump? Well, maybe not the baggage part. But having read their arguments for months now, there’s no unifying principles guiding the group. Some are establishment Republicans (Rubio supporters) who are bitter their “Next American Century” candidate’s rhetoric didn’t make the masses swoon this year.

Others are real conservatives, like Mark Levin, who tired of Trump’s dirty campaign tricks and got so fed up they decided to leave the party this time around.

Others have taken a position and won’t backtrack for fear of looking weak.

They’ve backed themselves into a prison cell and will neither be coaxed out of it nor even clean up the mess they’ve made in there.

#NeverTrump’s best option at this point is to ask for terms of surrender. That’s something French followers should be able to do quite easily.

Republicans who don’t back Trump feeling the pain

Donald Trump spared nothing in ruthlessly attacking his opponents during the GOP primary season, so it should come as no surprise he’s opening up on wayward Republicans who are refusing to commit to him now that he’s the almost certain party nominee.

We’re not talking about #NeverTrump people here – these are Republicans who would normally support the party nominee if it were anyone but Donald Trump, but won’t do so publicly now.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reports, “Donald Trump has started punishing top Republicans who don't back him, making clear they need to fall in line or face dire consequences…

“Trump has made remarkable strides in coalescing Republican voters and key party leaders since becoming the presumptive nominee nearly a month ago. But the broader party establishment, which Trump needs for fundraising, organizational muscle, and because of the legitimacy it lends to his candidacy, is coming around only slowly.”

As an example, Drucker uses Trump’s somewhat inexplicable chastising of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez during a campaign rally in her state last week. Trump simply said to the audience, “Your governor needs to do a better job.”

Not exactly a stinging rebuke, but since Martinez is a Hispanic woman, the press went nuts, talking about how damaging Trump’s remarks would be to his already strained relations with Hispanics and women.

Others have argued the attack on Martinez was simply Trump being Trump, responding in kind to Martinez’s less than flattering remarks about him.

A couple things can be gathered from this particular back-and-forth. First, Trump clearly sees it’s to his advantage to continue to aggressively confront perceived rivals to maintain his dominance in news cycles. It was likely no accident Trump chose Martinez to single out knowing anything negative said about her would be at the top of the news headlines.

Lastly, Trump probably figures the same type of strategy that strung up so many high profile Republicans during the primary campaign will be just as effective in squelching rank-and-file Republicans who are trying to make a name for themselves by publicly dissing Trump.

The message is clear: If you say something bad about me now that I’m the nominee, expect a reply…and I can hit harder than you can.

Here’s thinking Republicans will be pretty discreet in jabbing at The Donald from here on out. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stop challenging him.

New poll shows Clinton topping Trump again

Finally today, another new poll shows the hypothetical matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump very tight, though it appears Hillary is stabilizing her support and could possibly be pulling ahead again.

Nick Gass of Politico writes, “Hillary Clinton is back on top of Donald Trump in a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday—barely.

“Drawing her support from younger, more educated and predominantly women voters, the former secretary of state leads the presumptive Republican nominee 45 percent to 41 percent. In the hypothetical but increasingly likely matchup between Clinton and Trump, 51 percent to 35 percent of men opted for the Manhattan businessman, while 54 percent to 30 percent of women went for Clinton.”

The enormous gender gap – for both sexes – is very interesting. The media gleefully reports how unpopular Trump is with women, but what about Clinton’s similarly significant lack of favor with men?

What has she done or said that so offends male voters? Is it the fact she’s enabled a serial philanderer for her entire life and is only in the position she’s in because of her relationship to that cad?

The Quinnipiac poll also shows Bernie Sanders doing better against Trump. If Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included in the hypothetical matchup, Hillary’s lead narrows to two points.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch how this thing sways back and forth as time and events changes direction in the coming months. Pull up a chair, folks.

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Influencing Trump????

I agree that trying to run a #NeverTrump candidate at this point is pointless. The reason that Trump is the nominee is because the people support him. But if this is a bit delusional, I think it's a bit delusional to talk about the prospect of influencing Trump. Do you really believe that anyone or anything can influence this man, beyond his own desires and ambitions? You are speaking as if he is a little child who wants to do something great for America but just doesn't know how. He's not. He's a con man and he knows exactly what he's doing. It might be possible to force or coerce him into something by backing him into a corner via sheer political power, but I don't know where the resolve to do that will ever come from. Certainly not from the establishment or from his supporters. The only way to "influence" Trump that is at all realistic is through "deal-making". But remember, Trump will always get the long end of the deal. He holds all the cards, and has hoards of minions supporting him. Why would he give you anything you wanted? It's basically like trying to make a deal with the devil, or Hillary Clinton. It isn't going to come out nice. So basically, yes: If we want to influence Trump, he's going to ask us to sell our souls in return. As painful as it is to say, we are now in the same boat that Reagan was in. Our party has left us.