Bill Kristol Trying to Recruit Mitt Romney for Independent Run

Bill Kristol is continuing the #NeverTrump fight to its logical next step, trying to find a more mainstream Republican to run as an independent in the fall.


Bill Kristol is continuing the #NeverTrump fight to its logical next step, trying to find a more mainstream Republican to run as an independent in the fall.  His top choice is apparently failed 2012 nominee Mitt Romney.

In spite of his insistence that he will not run, Mitt Romney is being courted this week by a leading conservative commentator to reconsider and jump into the volatile 2016 presidential race as an independent candidate.

William Kristol, the longtime editor of the Weekly Standard magazine and a leading voice on the right, met privately with the 2012 nominee on Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibility of launching an independent bid, potentially with Romney as its standard-bearer.


Kristol has been working informally for weeks to seek out a prominent political or military figure who could be drafted into the general-election contest, such as retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who recently declined such overtures.


At the dinner, when asked in front of the attendees about possibly running as an independent this year, Romney said he was not interested.

“No, I’m certainly going to be hoping that we find someone who I have my confidence in who becomes nominee. I don’t intend on supporting either of the major-party candidates at this point,” Romney said, according to the Washington Examiner.

But, Romney added, “I am dismayed at where we are now, I wish we had better choices, and I keep hoping that somehow things will get better, and I just don’t see an easy answer from where we are.”


As Doug Mataconis has frequently noted in this space, mounting a true independent campaign at this stage of the race is exceedingly difficult because of onerous ballot access laws. Since Romney never formally entered the 2016 race, he won’t be subject to “sore loser” laws. But it’s nonetheless next to impossible to get on enough ballots to matter at this point. The more likely strategy is to co-opt an existing party’s line; the most obvious choice would be the Libertarian Party’s.

Effectively, of course, supporting a second Republican candidate is indirect support for Hillary Clinton. Given the distaste for her in GOP circles, which I share, I understand the impulse. But it’s a rather transparent workaround.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. There really is no workable option here. As you noted, ballot access deadlines are already starting to pass — Texas’s deadline is next on this coming Tuesday and that’s 38 Electoral Votes off the table right there — and others start passing soon after. And co-opting a third-party isn’t a really an option at this point either. The Constitution Party has already chosen its nominee, as have the Greens. As for the Libertarian Party, their convention is at the end of the month but the delegates who will vote for a nominee — most likely it will be former GOP Governor Gary Johnson again — have already been chosen so it’s not like showing up in Orlando en masse will do conservative insiders any good.

    As with most of Bill Kristol’s notions, this talk of an independent run is a pointless endeavor.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I was about to say, yeppers, continuing with that Bill Kristol ==> 100% WRONG.

    If I had been as publicly wrong about as many things as Bill Kristol has been, I would be looking for a bottle of scotch and a gun to shoot myself with.

  3. Argon says:

    I suspect Bill Kristof is either trying to be seen as remaining relevant or using the opportunity to grab some cash. Or both.

  4. James Pearce says:

    There really is no workable option here.

    The only “workable” option (for conservative #NeverTrumpers) would be to hold one’s nose and team up with Clinton. Her transactional nature creates opportunities that can be exploited by clever people. It doesn’t have to be a Unity ticket, but instead of meeting with Bill Kristol to talk about a 3rd party run, Romney should be meeting with Clinton to talk trade policy.

    I certainly don’t expect the careerists in the Republican party to take such a drastic step, actively helping the other party win, but Romney (or anyone else with no active future in Donald Trump’s Republican party) could do it. Seems like having President Clinton owe you a marker would be a better way to constrain her presidency than relying on an impotent Congress, or an unpopular nominee with a BIG personality and a LITTLE policy.

  5. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: if working with Democrats were not a complete anathema to the Republicans, they wouldn’t be in this situation.

    The Trumpkins are Refusniks and Revanchists, unwilling to compromise, and far more interested in pissing off liberals than any policy. These are the people that the the Republican Party has been encouraging and coddling for the past 8 years.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans will experience the biggest Spring Break hangover of the 21st century. About 7 months of binge drinking and gas mask bong festivities have ended up here – waking up in a South Padre Island hotel room and finding your arms around an orange haired guy from Queens New York.

    Now that Trump has, de-facto, wrapped it up, the Republican Party establishment and ‘normal’ Republican voters are going to have to listen to an un opposed Trump bloviate for the next few weeks. Not anything I’d wish on Chuck Norris or Ted Nugent (well Nugent, maybe..)

    Draft Romney? I hope so, it would be the perfect ending to an incredible campaign season. I’d say there is a 27% chance of it happening. Not very likely, but then again, I never thought we’d end up with Trump as the Republican candidate.

  7. James Pearce says:


    if working with Democrats were not a complete anathema to the Republicans, they wouldn’t be in this situation.

    Oh I’m not so naive to think my advice will be heeded, or even heard. Nor am I certain it’s “good” advice.

    But if I were in Romney’s circle, I’d have him talk to Clinton. There is no escaping the fact that the best chance for “Never Trump” lies with the success of her campaign.

  8. MBunge says:

    Trump would love to have Romney run a third party campaign. He could appeal to disaffected conservatives by beating up on Hillary and disaffected liberals by beating up on Mitt while those two split the establishment opposition in two.

    Running a third candidate to stop Trump is dumb but only Kristol could go that extra mile of stupid to want Romney to be that guy.


  9. Kylopod says:

    Effectively, of course, supporting a second Republican candidate is indirect support for Hillary Clinton.

    Yes and no. If you’re an ordinary voter, Republican-leaning, and you decide that your top priority is stopping Donald Trump from becoming president, then the most logical choice would be to vote for Hillary Clinton. But if you’re a public figure and you’re trying to determine who to endorse publicly, then supporting a third-party candidate with no chance of winning is mostly damage control, a way of saying “Don’t blame me, I voted for the true conservative” after the electoral drubbing the GOP (likely) faces in the fall.

  10. rachel says:

    @grumpy realist: If you were Bill Kristol, you’d kill every household pet in your neighborhood as as your emptied your gun trying to shoot yourself. He is that incompetent–unless he has actually been a deep-cover Democratic Party operative all along. In which case? Bravo, Bill Kristol!

  11. gVOR08 says:

    It’s difficult to express appropriate contempt for Bill Kristol. But many of you have done an admirable job.