It's one thing for a Republican to say he or she is part of the #NeverTrump effort. It's something altogether different when a Republican takes proactive steps to find a third-party candidate to run against the GOP nominee.
Take the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, a prominent figure in Republican politics for many years, for example. The GOP pundit has spent months suggesting he'd like to participate in some kind of independent operation, "probably for 2016 only," in which Donald Trump's Republican opponents rally behind their own alternative. A month ago, meetings were held, memos were circulated, and names were floated (Tom Coburn and Rick Perry were reportedly eyed as possibilities).
Recently, attention shifted to retired Gen. James Mattis, who this afternoon gently broke Kristol's heart.
James N. Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general who was wooed by conservative leaders for a possible independent presidential candidacy, has ruled out a bid for the White House in 2016. Two allies of Mr. Mattis sent emails to associates on Friday notifying them that the retired general had closed the door on a campaign. William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said Mr. Mattis had decided "after much consideration" not to proceed.
The New York Times' report noted that Mattis, a widely respected figure in military circles, didn't encourage presidential speculation, but he was "receptive to political overtures." The retired Marine reportedly even visited DC last week and "met with a small group of strategists supportive of his entry into the race and discussed the election."
Evidently, the meeting did not persuade Mattis to take the leap.
For those who don't keep an eye on the GOP's Kristol wing, the Weekly Standard has been banging the drum for Mattis with considerable zeal in recent weeks, and it was starting to spread. Both the New York Post and the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin published pro-Mattis pieces this week.
And while the scuttlebutt is a reminder that some of Trump's die-hard Republican critics haven't yet reached the acceptance phase in the stages of grief, they will nevertheless have to look elsewhere for a standard-bearer.
"The thoughtfulness and patriotism—and for that matter, the modesty—Jim showed as he reflected on this decision make me more convinced than ever that he would have made a truly admirable president, and also a good candidate," Kristol said of the general said. "But it's not to be. So we won't have a President Mattis."