Although Libertarian nominee Gov. Gary Johnson is widely considered to be the only viable alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, there’s another third party in town, maybe. It’s offering another alternative to Trump and Clinton.
That party is the Renegade Party, created by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol in mid-May to unite dissatisfied conservatives and back an independent presidential campaign geared towards throwing the election to the House of Representatives. Although the party has no official nominee, Kristol is attempting to draft conservative lawyer and National Review writer David French, who has yet to make a decision.
Whoever runs as a Renegade, he or she will face an uphill battle due to the lateness of the effort. The most significant obstacle is ballot access laws which are designed to protect the two major parties from competition. Though the process varies from state to state, getting onto the ballot as an independent in most states requires the collection of thousands of signatures, and the Renegade Party has already missed the filing deadline in some states. Even getting onto enough ballots to win a few electoral votes would be a monumental undertaking requiring an army of volunteers, campaign teams navigating the distinct processes in each state, and significant funding.
Older third parties like the Libertarian and Green Parties have spent decades building their organizations, and still struggle to get onto the ballot in many states. In every election cycle, they devote a considerable amount of time and resources to collecting signatures and filing petitions. It’s certainly not impossible for a brand new party to get a little-known candidate onto the ballot in many states by November, but do the Renegades have what it takes?
As of June 2, the party — which, presumably, consists of Kristol and an unknown number of colleagues — has a Twitter account with 5,854 followers, a Facebook page with 78 fans, and a website which consists only of a logo featuring a dog and the slogan, “Neither Trump Nor Hillary.” Of the three, the Twitter account is the most active, with about three dozen tweets since its creation on May 17, some of them are retweets from Kristol’s account, many employing the hashtag #RenegadesUnite. Perhaps the closest thing to a platform so far was tweeted on May 18: “What does it mean to be a Renegade? It means standing up for economic opportunity, limited government, and a strong national defense.”
If a Renegade candidate managed to win a few states, it’s possible that both Trump and Clinton would receive fewer than the 270 electoral votes required for victory. In that case, the state delegations in the Republican-controlled House would vote on the top three winners of electoral votes. An independent conservative might do much better in such a limited election than in the national one.
However, it’s a long, long way from a moderately active Twitter account with a few thousand followers to a large-scale campaign capable of beating the Republican and Democratic nominees in even one state. Whether Bill Kristol, David French, and other conservative Renegades are capable of running such a campaign — or whether they even intend to — remains to be seen.