-- While conservative columnist Bill Kristol continues his efforts to recruit an alternative candidate willing to mount a long-shot challenge to Donald Trump, he now says it may be necessary for Republicans to create an entirely new party.
“I now wonder really whether the Republican Party itself doesn’t get so tainted by Trump that you have to think of the possibility of a new party or a really radically somehow revised or reformed party,” Kristol told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on this week’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast.
“I just wonder, is any American under 35 going to be interested in the Republican Party after four or five months of Donald Trump being its spokesman, its actual nominee?” he continued.
Kristol, who is an ABC contributor, pondered that the new party could be called the “New Whigs,” noting that many Republicans in Lincoln’s time came out of the Whig Party. “You can have a new party that takes over a lot of the old party,” he said.
While Kristol admits that talk of a new party may sound fanciful, he added that “it seemed to me almost equally fanciful a year ago to think that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president.”
But before conceding to the scenario of a total collapse of the modern Republican Party, Kristol remains focused on the hope that a white knight candidate will come forward to take on Trump. At the top of his list is Mitt Romney, who has already ruled out the possibility of entering the race on multiple occasions.
“I got to think that Mitt Romney, there’s some chance that he wakes up and says, 'I’ve got all money I need, I’ve done my duty, I’ve tried to become president of the United States, this would be something that may be a self-sacrifice maybe,'” Kristol said.
Kristol said efforts to try and change Romney’s mind and persuade him to enter the race will continue this weekend, when some supporters of the former 2012 presidential nominee will converge at an event in Park City, Utah.
“There are some people going up to him and saying … ‘Why don’t you rethink doing this?’” Kristol said. “There are people close to Mitt who have really looked at the third-party, independent race and don’t think it’s at all unfeasible.”
Kristol also floated former 2016 candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez as possibilities to mount an independent run, though neither have indicated any willingness to do so previously.
While Kristol’s recent focus has been on mounting an independent campaign, he said the possibility of a contested convention is still not out of the question and said there was a conference call on the topic last night.
“There are sort of ways that it could happen,” he said. “There was, I know, I wasn’t on it, but a big conference call last night with a bunch of people who want to resist Trump, some whom are delegates at convention, talking about what they can do.”
What is key, Kristol said, to either an independent run or contested convention scenario succeeding would be for a prominent Republican leader, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan or Sen. Marco Rubio, to retract their endorsements of Trump.
“It would be huge, I think you’d have a cascade and then everything opens up,” he said. “Things can’t happen until one key rock gets pulled out of mountainside, or whatever, and then there’s something of a landslide and I really don’t know if that will happen.”
Though he said he is not sure what it would take for someone like Ryan to withdraw his endorsement, Kristol continues to hope that the House speaker will wake up.
“I hope it would take him going to sleep one night and really waking up and think, ‘Why am I doing this? What is the great benefit? Is it really uniting the party? Is it really providing cover for my members?’” Kristol said. “Isn’t it laughable now to say we’re going to advance a serious conservative agenda with Donald Trump as the nominee?”
Former Rubio Communications Director Alex Conant also joined “Powerhouse Politics” Thursday and all but ruled out the possibility of Rubio taking the job as Trump’s running mate if it were offered.
“I don’t think there’s any scenario for that,” Conant said of the possibility that Rubio could become Trump’s vice presidential pick.
“Marco has serious policy differences with Donald Trump and we made those clear during the campaign and those haven’t changed,” he continued. “I think Trump should pick someone who agrees with his policy and frankly someone who wants to be his vice president."
Now a partner at the newly launched public relations firm Firehouse Strategies, Conant said his best advice to the Trump campaign is to keep the candidate on message.
“They need to figure out their message and then stay on their message, and I think when Trump spends day after day talking about Trump University, and the judge, and civil lawsuits, I don’t think that is winning him any votes anywhere in the country, I think it’s wildly off message," he said.