What happens when a flamboyant, big-mouthed cartoonish character runs for President? Actually, it’s happened before—several times.
Twice in the twentieth century “third” candidates have spoiled Republican chances. Both led to the election of a Democrat who might not have defeated the GOP nominee alone.
The first time was in 1912 when former President Teddy Roosevelt challenged incumbent William Taft. Despite winning nine of the twelve primaries, Roosevelt lost the nomination, because Taft controlled the party hierarchy. Roosevelt ran anyway. In fact, he carried more states than Taft, which allowed Woodrow Wilson, who polled fewer votes that Roosevelt and Taft.
This scenario almost repeated in 1948 when the southern Democrats bolted the party, nearly giving Republican Dewey victory over incumbent Democrat Truman.
Fast forward to 1992. History repeats itself as Ross Perot mounts a third-party challenge. (Unlike Roosevelt and Trump, Perot never contested the Republican nomination.) Perot carried no states, but the twenty million who voted for him facilitated the election of Bill Clinton, whose vote total again trailed by over ten million votes out of the seventy millions cast.
Assuming Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will be the Democrat and Republican nominees in 2016, (not a sure thing, but probable) if Donald Trump runs and, if he stays popular, he could throw the election to the party he attacks so vehemently. (Two big ifs. I think he’ll go for it, whether he stays popular or not.)
Doesn’t Trump see this? Sure, but this is about the Donald, not about doing the right thing for the country. Isn’t Donald the right thing? Not a chance. People say, he makes some good points. That’s what the Germans said when they elected Hitler. People say, he’s a successful business man. So? And it depends on how you define successful.
Democrats among those already talking up a Trump third party candidacy when his bottle rocket flames out. They gain most from a 1992 redux. That would be weird: a Clinton beats a Bush because of a third party conservative challenger.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana