Who will the Never Trump Republicans support?

150827102252-donald-trump-july-10-2015-super-169The number of Republicans who have declared for Clinton has, thus far, been low. Names like Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State in the George W Bush administration, do not shift elections. But there are many people in the Republican Party who will never support Donald Trump, and for many excellent reasons. Most are waiting to see how things develop. The window for an independent candidate to enter the race as anything other than a spoiler is shrinking rapidly.

This column is always keen to remind people that two highly successful Republican governors – Gary Johnson (NM) and William Weld (MA) – are running on the Libertarian Party ticket. But that ticket won’t suit all Republicans, by any means.

The NeverTrump group contains a number of overlapping groups. The foreign policy establishment, such as Armitage, cannot support Trump because he opposes, or sometimes opposes, engagement with the rest of the world. The neoconservatives oppose him because he does not believe in forcefully advancing the cause of freedom abroad. But nor do Libertarians. Clinton’s views are much closer to theirs.

There is a strong group of business friendly Republicans – most obviously typified by Mitt Romney – who might well end up supporting Johnson and Weld. Romney has said that if Weld, his friend from Massachusetts, was at the top of the ticket he would support it, but he doesn’t know Johnson as well. Republicans mostly concerned with economic policy can’t back Trump’s protectionist agenda. They could live with Johnson.

Social conservatives and evangelicals are not necessarily comfortable with Trump. Like the neocons, they sense that he doesn’t share their agenda, and certainly doesn’t care about it. They are probably right, but Johnson and Clinton actively oppose their agenda, so they will probably support Trump or stay at home.

There is a final group whose major objection to Trump is that he simply isn’t serious. He knows little or nothing about policy and isn’t willing to learn. He is capricious, irrational and narcissistic. This group, which might overlap with any of the others, might well accept Clinton, but might also see her as lacking the appropriate character. She is sleazy and untrustworthy. Like Trump, she’s a pathological liar. But she is more serious than he is, and pays attention to policy. Johnson is arguably more serious than either of them, and as a two-term state governor has better executive experience. On the other hand, he not only argues for drug legalization, he sells and consumes cannabis himself. 

There is also a strain of libertarian conservatives, which sometimes overlaps with the business group. They are the most obvious recruits for Johnson and Weld. 

But sooner or later, a big name Republican is going to jump ship. Someone big is going to declare for Clinton or Johnson. The biggest name in play right now is Romney. He is seriously contemplating the Libertarian Party, and his declaration would free up other big names, such as Senator Ben Sasse or major funders such as the Koch brothers. 

Clinton’s biggest name so far is former Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson. She’s going to do better than this. Barbara Bush, whom she ousted as First Lady, is a real possibility. 

Quentin Langley lives in New York and London and teaches at the University of Bedfordshire Business School

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