Monday, January 25, 2016


In a Daily Beast story about a possible Mike Bloomberg third-party presidential run, Bill Kristol floats the possibility of a four-way race:
Presented with a scenario where Bloomberg enters due to Sen. Bernie Sanders winning early Democratic primary states, and Trump dominating the Republican field, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told The Daily Beast that he and other conservatives would recruit a fourth candidate.

"And a Weekly Standard/National Review pro-Constitution, pro-life, hawkish candidate could win. Working on who that would be," Kristol said, citing "quiet and very preliminary discussions" that he has had with other conservatives.
Kristol's not the only righty thinking like this. At Power Line on Saturday, Steven Hayward speculated that the 2016 election could resemble the election of 1824:
... I wonder whether we might have four major candidates in the event of a Trump-Sanders or Trump-Clinton matchup -- Bloomberg plus an “independent” Republican candidate (I’d guess it might be Romney)? Then the election we’d most resemble was 1824, when there were four major candidates running. That election was settled in the House of Representatives in favor of John Quincy Adams, even though Andrew Jackson won the most popular votes. One could imagine this happening again, with Trump, Clinton, or Bloomberg getting the most votes, but a Republican dominated House picking the “independent” Republican candidate. (Let’s hope to God it isn’t Jeb Bush.) One can imagine today’s Jacksonian candidate (Mr. T) being just as outraged as Jackson was at such an outcome. If you think things were bitter after the messy outcome of the 2000 election between Bush and Gore, just wait.
Even though a candidate from his party would win, Hayward recognizes that this would arouse anger. Bill Kristol, however, thinks it's a nifty idea. He cheerily tweeted a link to the Hayward post yesterday.

Hayward just seems to be speculating, but Kristol actually seems interested in making this happen. I'm not sure why -- could you guess the outcome of a four-way race (let's say Trump/Sanders/Bloomberg/Romney) in any given state? I really can't imagine how it would turn out. The lat two minor-party candidates to win any electoral votes whatsoever, George Wallace in 1968 and Strom Thurmond in 1948, had segregation on their side, so each won several Southern states. What reason would any state have to prefer Mitt Romney, say, over the major-party candidates?

I say this because Kristol's dream candidate would have to win at least one state to be eligible for choice by the House of Representatives, according to the procedure laid out in the Constitution for elections in which no candidate gets to 270 electoral votes. (See Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, as modified by the 12th Amendment.) If no one gets to 270, the election goes to the House -- but only the top three candidates in the electoral-vote count can be considered by the House. So Kristol's "real" Republican would have to win a state (or a presidential elector committed to another candidate would have to become what's called a "faithless elector" and vote for Kristol's choice). Also, Kristol's choice would have to have at least the third-best electoral-vote total (if all four candidates win electoral votes, #4 gets booted before the election goes to the House).

At that point, Kristol is right -- the House can choose any of the three, even the candidate who finished a distant third. Each state, regardless of size, gets one vote. Republicans control 33 House delegations -- the states in various shades of red on the map below. Democrats control only 14 -- the blue states below. (Three are split -- the pink states.)

But will every state agree to go with the establishment Republican rather than Trump? Remember, these are House Republicans we're talking about -- a lot of them are really, really crazy. In states with a close party split, will Trumpite Republicans break from Romney Republicans? Would that let the Sanders Democrats steal a win?

And what if it does work? What if House Republicans agree to hand the presidency to third-place Mitt Romney -- who, running against Trump, might lose every red state except Utah? You think the public is just going to tolerate a presidential victory in the House by a guy who won only 6 electoral votes?

I don't know if the Sandersites would do much more than send a lot of angry tweets. But the Trumpites? I think they might lock and load -- literally.

Yeah, right, Bill -- that would be really swell for America.


Victor said...

I think everone in the punditry waits for Kristol to chime in, and then pick any and every other choice, because you'd need a team of researchers and tons of bandwidth to find the last time that imbecile got anything right!
Make that IF he was ever right!

Professor Chaos said...

Who listens to Bill Kristol? The man who is wrong about everything. The man who foisted Sarah Palin into the McCain campaign. I'd sooner listen to Billy Crystal than Bill Kristol.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Sometimes I think I'm going to owe a giant bill to some cosmic entity after this election is over just for the entertainment value. A race with Romney and Trump AND Bernie AND Bloomberg? Heard the one about two Jews, a robot, and an asshole? That's not an election, that is a Henny Youngman joke.

Ten Bears said...

That's an awful lot of what ifs.

Unknown said...

Is it really a source of actual wonder that someone whose business model & livelihood model materially depend on a fucntionally competitive GOP, given this GOP -- of which over 80s are split between OTOH a definitive cultural embarrassment, a trade side-show geek, & OTOH 2 young male offspring of Cuban emigres & a bizarre voluntary tent-based faith-healer refugee from the confluence between neuroscience & alchemy, not one of whom has the proven capacity to run a chequing account leave aside a check-out counter -- would lapse entirely into unrestrained fapping over Electoral College porn?

Daro said...

But Hillary IS Romney. Just with less hair spray.

Unknown said...

I suppose this kind of fantasizing might have a special appeal for political nerds: the equivalent of science fiction geeks debating the relative size of movie starships.

But it does seem like an awful lot of effort to wish away the vastly more likely outcome of Trump losing to Hillary in a plain old two person race, the margin to be determined by how bad the economy gets by November.

What happened to all that talk several months ago about how the prohibitive cost and difficulty of 50-state ballot access meant that Biden's window of opportunity had closed?