Win Or Lose, A Third Party Run Would Be Mitt Romney’s Greatest Legacy

(REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Mitt Romney may be the #NeverTrump movement’s last chance for a third party bid.

Anti-Trump conservatives have so far been unsuccessful in recruiting a candidate to mount a third party run against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Gen. James Mattis said no thanks. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he is too busy raising his children to run for president. Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said he is not interested.

Faced with the prospect of two liberals competing for the White House, the #NeverTrump movement is reportedly still looking for a serious alternative to the current option of political malaria or political Ebola. Though Romney has indicated he would prefer someone else take on Trump and Hillary, the reality is he may be the last best hope for a serious third party bid — and the last best hope to keep the flame of conservatism burning brightly. (OPINION: Hillary Is Preferable To Trump Just Like Malaria Is Preferable To Ebola)

It’s strange to think of Romney as the last best hope for conservatism. Many conservatives weren’t exactly thrilled with him as the 2012 Republican nominee because of the health care plan he instituted in Massachusetts. But in the age of a Trumpian Republican Party, Romney looks a lot like Attila the Hun. He may not be “severely” conservative, but unlike Donald Trump, he is at least something of a conservative — one that understands the importance of America’s role in the world, the need to fix our entitlement programs, the constraints of our constitutional system and how to create an environment where our economy can soar.

And unlike the other potential #NeverTrump third party candidates, he has the name recognition and organizational know how to make a third party run more than a Potemkin effort.

Perhaps one reason keeping Romney on the sidelines is a concern about what a run would do to his legacy. Does the former Massachusetts governor really want to risk becoming a three-time presidential loser?

That’s a fair concern, but Romney should keep in mind that history remembers very few people. Romney is a very accomplished man, more accomplished and well-known than most everyone in the United States today, but outside of academic faculty lounges, few people will remember his name 20 years from now.

But if he wants to be something more than a historical footnote, something more memorable, this is his opportunity. History beckons. The two major party presumptive presidential nominees are terrible, both boasting record high unfavorable ratings. The Democrat is a compulsive liar who struggles to name a single accomplishment of any worth. The Republican is an even more compulsive liar who has proposed economic policies that could bring on an economic depression. Even more alarming, he seems infatuated with the power dictators wield and, dictator-like, has mused about altering the First Amendment to prevent publications from criticizing him.

Clearly a third party run would be an uphill battle. But Romney should keep in mind that all those who say that a third party candidacy has no shot to succeed also predicted Donald Trump had no chance to be the Republican nominee. Nothing is certain this election cycle.

Indeed, if a third party candidate ever had a shot of being viable again, this seems like the year. A new poll shows that even without campaigning, Romney is within striking distance of Trump and Clinton nationally, trailing Trump by just 13-percentage points and Clinton by 15-percentage points in a hypothetical match-up. Not bad for an undeclared candidate who would not have the backing of either of the two major parties.

Could Romney win enough states to push the election to the House of Representatives? Stranger things have happened. Could the Republican-controlled House choose Romney over Trump and Clinton? Sure, why not?

But even in a losing effort, Romney can forge a legacy far greater than anything he has created to date. For starters, he would prevent a liberal authoritarian from becoming the face of conservatism. Most importantly, he would prevent Trump from getting anywhere near the White House. America might suffer under a President Clinton. But a President Trump might well prove a threat to the American system itself.

So Romney has a big decision to make. If he decides to run, he could make history and potentially save the country from two terrible presidential contenders. And if his effort just sabotages Trump’s prospects, his run will still have been well worth it. Even if much of the nation doesn’t recognize his noble act, surely generations of Romneys will take pride in a patriarch who answered his country’s call, took on a wannabe authoritarian and thwarted the threat he posed to the nation.

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