You know you’ve made it in Republicans politics when conservatives are circulating your name as a potential savior who would swoop into the presidential race and save the party from Donald Trump.
Whether the plan was stop the real estate mogul with a third party bid or in a brokered convention, #NeverTrump-ers continually ran into the same problem: just whom would they rally around instead?
Next to the graveyard of the legitimate presidential candidates who tried and failed to stop Trump, there’s the cemetery of the potential white knights whose campaigns just never got off the ground. Here’s a look at some of the more absurd ideas put forward by Republicans seeking to wrest the nomination away from Trump:
It’s hard to imagine Republicans would want to sacrifice another seat on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But before Scalia’s passing, Justice Samuel Alito was among Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol’s list of Trump alternatives.
But even after Scalia died pundit Mark Plotkin said Republicans should consider rallying around Alito if they were going to attempt to dethrone Trump in Cleveland.
“As president, he could preserve the much-revered legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia philosophically and ethnically by appointing justices similar to Scalia — and himself,” Plotkin wrote in The Hill.
Dick Cheney/Tom Cotton
Kristol also offered as a non-Trump option a neocon dream-team of a ticket: former Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. Tom Cotton.
Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn was reportedly on the list of possible third-party candidates discussed by anti-Trump conservatives activists who met in Washington last month.
Before Coburn stepped down from the Senate facing illness, his claim to fame was the annual Waste Book, where he castigated the federal government for projects he deemed unworthy of public funding.
Coburn didn’t rule the idea out entirely when asked about it the New York Times.
“I’m going to support that person,” he said, “and I don’t expect that person to be me.”
James Mattis or some other former military leader
Neocons are among the most vocal Republican critics of Trump, as he has vowed to scale back U.S. involvement overseas. Fittingly, former military leaders have been on Stop Trump movement’s list of potential alternatives.
The Daily Beast reported that an entire operation has been organized to push retired Marine Corp Gen. James Mattis into the race — and his supporters even put together a series of memos outlining a strategy for how he could win.
Likewise, Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius encouraged Republicans to consider Mattis and four other military figures: Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who also served in the Army and the FBI.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse was one of the first — and still, one of the few — elected national lawmakers to say definitively he will not support Trump even if he is the Republican nominee.
That act of (relative) political courage inspired a #DraftSasse movement, including a super PAC, which according a press release announcing its launch, will ”recruit and support” a Sasse presidential bid.
Sasse, for what it’s worth, has said he “absolutely” will not run for president in 2016.
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniel has a pattern of almost-but-then-not running for the GOP’s presidential nomination. So it’s no surprise pundits keep putting him on their dream presidential candidates lists, and his name was circulated once again once it was clear that the GOP’s official 2016 roster wasn’t going to stop Trump.
His name was most recently invoked by Rep. Luke Messer, who floated Daniels to The Hill this week.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed in his 2012 and 2016 cycle bids for the presidency, but that hasn’t stopped Trump haters from considering him as their last best hope.
Erick Erickson, one of the conservatives present at a March meeting to discuss blocking Trump, called Perry a “consensus choice” for an independent campaign.
“He would win Texas and at least obstruct Trump,” Erickson told the New York Times.
Rumors that Perry could be Republicans’ bespectacled white knight were further fueled when Perry reportedly did not vote in the Texas GOP primary, as Texas prohibits those who vote in the Republican or Democratic primaries from mounting an independent presidential bid in the state.
The hearts of technocrats everywhere were broken the day former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he would not be jumping into the race as an independent candidate, after semi-covertly launching an operation to research the possibility.
While some conservatives, like Rupert Murdoch, supported the idea of Bloomberg jumping in the race, many Republicans argued that Bloomberg would have taken more votes from Hillary Clinton than a GOP nominee — so in effect, Bloomberg might have made it more likely that Trump won the White House.
In an primary cycle driven in part by a white working class revolt against the economic policies of the GOP elite, who better to save the day than a genteel venture capitalist who once challenged the governor of Texas to a $10,000 bet.
But when former Massachusetts governor and failed 2012 nominee Mitt Romney made one of the strongest anti-Trump statements yet, the murmurs followed: Maybe he’s setting himself up to be the GOP’s savior?
It’s the ultimate #SlatePitch, which explains why conservative Slate columnist Reihan Salam, endorsed it, writing, “He would be a formidable candidate if he chose to join the campaign, and he would give anti-Trump conservatives a reason to fight this fall.”
No Washington politician is better at playing hard to get than House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican was handed the speaker’s gavel after swearing he didn’t want to replace his predecessor John Boehner. To wit, Ryan fanboys and girls hoped that Ryan would reluctantly jump into the presidential race as well.
The rumors reached theirs fever pitch when Politico’s Mike Allen blared in his daily Playbook: “One of the nation’s best-wired Republicans sees a 54 percent chance that Ryan will end up as the nominee.”
The desperation for Ryan to make a late-in-the-game play for the top of the GOP ticket became so palpable that he had to make a speech explicitly taking himself out of the running.
TPM illustration by Christine Frapech. (Photos: AP)