By Nicholas Stix
Wait a minute. Weren't these the guys who were demanding that Donald Trump promise not to make a third party run? And aren't they the ones who presented themselves as men of principle, in contrast to Donald Trump? Doesn't this mean that the Republican Party is planning to run against itself?
Donors ask GOP consulting firm to research independent presidential bid
A group of Republicans is moving quickly to research ballot-access requirements for independent candidates in case Trump wraps up the GOP nomination next month.
By Scott Bland
02/26/16 12:44 P.M. EST
Conservative donors have engaged a major GOP consulting firm in Florida to research the feasibility of mounting a late, independent run for president amid growing fears that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination.
A memo prepared for the group zeroes in on ballot access as a looming obstacle for any independent candidate, along with actually identifying a viable, widely known contender and coalescing financial support for that person. The two states with the earliest deadlines for independent candidates, Texas and North Carolina, also have some of the highest hurdles for independents to get on the ballot, according to the research.
“All this research has to happen before March 16, when inevitably Trump is the nominee, so that we have a plan in place," a source familiar with the discussions said. March 16 is the day after the GOP primary in Florida, a winner-take-all contest that Marco Rubio supporters have identified as a must-win to stop Trump's early momentum.
“It’s critical some serious attention is given to this,” the source said.
The document, stamped “confidential,” was authored by staff at Data Targeting, a Republican firm based in Gainesville, Fla. The memo notes that “it is possible to mount an independent candidacy but [it] will require immediate action on the part of this core of key funding and strategic players.”
Data Targeting did not respond to a request for comment on the memo.
The research points to Texas and North Carolina as early tests for running an independent, conservative candidate against Trump and the Democratic nominee. The candidate would need to gather over 79,900 valid petition signatures in Texas by May 9 and over 89,000 in North Carolina by June 9.
Only two other states have thresholds that high, and gathering petitions can be an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, the Texas signatures would have to come entirely from voters who did not vote in this year’s Democratic and Republican primaries.
But “with 38 electoral votes in play in Texas and North Carolina’s true swing state status, failing to qualify in either or both states would render any independent candidate non-viable,” the report's authors wrote. “This is logistically possible but will require immediate action.”
By July 15, the independent candidate would need more than 460,000 voter signatures to make the ballot in 11 states. Assuming an April 1 start date, the campaign would have to gather 4,345 valid signatures per day to maintain a steady pace.