Mitt Romney is not an idiot. He knows that he can’t possibly win a presidential election as an independent candidate. And that’s even assuming he could get onto the ballot in enough states in time, which he can’t, having already missed Texas’s deadline. No Republican/conservative candidacy can win without Texas.
But I still give credence to this Washington Post report about his and Bill Kristol’s recruitment efforts for an anti-Trump candidacy, and it all comes down to this single paragraph:
One related objective is to prevent both Clinton and Trump from clinching a majority in the electoral college and thus throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives, under the provision of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This scenario played out in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral and popular votes but was defeated in the House by John Quincy Adams.
I don’t think this is a “related objective.” I think it’s the only objective. A presidential election decided by the House of Representatives is the only path to victory for Mitt Romney who, as I have noted, still desperately wants to be president. When he positioned himself as a fallback/draft candidate back when Trump’s victory was not yet assured, he must have known then that his chances were slim…slim but feasible.
And so it is here. It’s still pretty damned unlikely that a Romney independent candidacy could win any electoral votes, let alone enough to throw the election to the House, but it’s possible. He’d need to rack up electoral votes in states where he could plausibly squeeze out plurality wins against Trump and Clinton. The most likely places for that to happen, however, would be states that Clinton is already going to lose. So to make this plan work, Romney needs to eke out wins in a few blue states, and that’s really where this falls apart.
It’s not impossible. If we start with the 2012 race as a starting point, and, for example, give Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan to independent-Romney, the election goes to the House. This assumes that Clinton doesn’t flip any ’12 red states blue in the mean time. You could also have a scenario where, say, Trump wins Iowa from the Democrats, but Romney wins Virginia. You get the idea. Not impossible, but very unlikely.
But “unlikely” could be enough as far as Romney and the anti-Trump GOP forces are concerned.
Of course, there’d be one more enormous hurdle, which is actually winning an election by the House. It’s not a majority-vote situation there. If the presidential election goes to the House of Representatives, each state’s delegation gets one vote. So the question then becomes whether Romney could convince a majority of Members within each state’s delegation to vote for him. (Oh, and the Senate would pick the vice-president. Fun, right?)
A deadlocked Electoral College vote going to the House would normally be an easy win for the GOP in a two-person race, because of the party’s vast over-representation in Congress. But two “Republicans”? I wouldn’t begin to know how to predict that. But I can say that it represents a glimmer of hope for Romney’s quixotic, last-ditch effort in his decade-long quest to become president.