David French, the conservative writer and lawyer floated by anti-Donald Trump forces as a potential independent presidential candidate in 2016, says he will not mount a White House bid. In an article posted on the National Review's website Sunday night, French said he opposes both Trump and Hillary Clinton but determined after "serious study" that he would not be the right candidate for the job.
Bill Kristol's effort to find a Republican presidential candidate to run an independent campaign against Donald Trump has a cool name: the Renegade Party. All it needs now is, well, literally everything else.
The third-party #NeverTrump operation has no money, no infrastructure, no platform, no voters, and as of last night, no candidate.
"[G]iven the timing, the best chance for success goes to a person who either is extraordinarily wealthy (or has immediate access to extraordinary wealth) or is a transformational political talent. I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve my country, and I thank God for the successes I've had as a lawyer and a writer, but it is plain to me that I'm not the right person for this effort," French wrote.
The conservative added that he will continue to oppose both of the major-party presidential nominees.
French's decision comes as a bit of surprise, though it's obviously understandable. Had he launched a campaign, it would have been difficult to imagine a scenario in which French, who is largely unknown to a national audience and not independently wealthy, had any meaningful impact on the race. Indeed, given polls showing Trump consolidating Republican support, it was never altogether clear who French's target audience was going to be: the GOP's anti-Trump contingent is quite small.
His announcement, however, was a notable coda to a broader effort that failed in rather spectacular ways.
As we discussed last week, the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol first started talking publicly late last year about recruiting a Republican presidential candidate to run a third-party campaign against Donald Trump. In time, the search was on for a candidate.
Kristol wanted a national contender, but Mitt Romney said no. He would have settled for an experienced presidential candidate, but Rick Perry said no. He turned his attention to sitting senators, but Ben Sasse said no. He looked at former senators, but Tom Coburn said no. He eventually moved past elected officials and sought out a military leader, but retired Gen. James Mattis said no.
Eventually a political blogger became the white knight, but in the end, even French declined.
This is how the #NeverTrump campaign ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
For his part, Kristol turned to Twitter this morning to ponder some politically existential questions: "In era of Trump, what is a Republican? A defender of constitutionalism? Rule of law? Limited government? Defense of liberty? Sound finances?"
The Republican pundit, who tried and failed to slow Trump down during the GOP primaries, and then tried and failed to find a rival candidate to run in November, clearly doesn't know the answer to any of these questions. Neither, I'm afraid, does anyone else.