A lot of people in the Republican party are talking about how they want to stop Donald Trump from getting the White House. But how would they do it? Here's the math.
The best strategy to not only dump Trump but beat Hillary Clinton in the general election may be to run a completely different ticket under another name, and keep both Trump and Clinton from getting the 270 electoral college votes (a majority of the 538 electoral votes) necessary to win the presidential election. When a candidate fails to get a majority of the electoral votes, the president is decided by the House of Representatives and the vice president is decided by the Senate. (And the Republicans currently control both.)
That's where things could get very interesting, because the right third candidate running in November could send the election to Congress by winning as few as two states! But it's a lot trickier than it sounds, because that conservative or right-leaning ticket couldn't put itself on the ballot in all 50 states — especially in states where its presence would help Hillary Clinton win where Trump otherwise would have taken it one-on-one.
Get out your calculators and follow along with these two strategies with two different tickets:
Option 1: Go for wins only in Texas and Ohio with a Ted Cruz/John Kasich ticket.
This scenario would leave Clinton with 248 electoral votes,Trump with 234 and Cruz with 56 —all short of the 270 needed to win. The Cruz/Kasich ticket would have to make sure it does not get on the ballot in leaning red states like North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri, just in case they swing one or two of them Clinton's way. But most importantly, this ticket would need to do absolutely no campaigning in Florida. If she wins Florida, almost no scenario leaves Clinton with fewer than the magic 270 number.
In fact,Trump needs to win Florida in every one of these third-ticket scenarios. If there were any viable establishment Republicans who could win Florida in a three-way race against Trump and Clinton, things would be different. But there isn't, (I'm looking at you, Marco Rubio).
Option 2: Go a little more national with a real bipartisan ticket of Ted Cruz/Joe Manchin.
With only two state wins, a Cruz/Kasich ticket would have a harder time convincing a potentially paranoid Republican House delegation from spurning Trump. So, why not go a little more national and get some Democrat support too by putting West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on the ticket? Now that Clinton has become Public Enemy No. 1 to the coal industry, I think Manchin could be convinced to run. A Cruz/Manchin ticket would have a good chance of winning Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and maybe Wyoming and Virginia.
Again, that ticket would have to stay off the ballot and be a non-entity in North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, and especially Florida.
Once the vote moves to the House, I think Cruz and Manchin would have an easier time getting to the magic number of 26 state delegations to vote for them. (That's how it works in a "contingency election." Each state gets one vote and is decided by its existing Representatives to the House).
Thirty-three state delegations to the House are currently majority Republican, which means a Cruz/Manchin ticket could still win even if it lost as many as seven of those states to Trump. And three state delegations are now tied between Republicans and Democrats, putting them in play as well especially if Manchin can reach out to a handful of his fellow Dems.
This may seem a little like fantasy football but for a GOP that's facing two doomsday scenarios and no other viable option right now, this may be the only way out. And to many conservatives, it's worth almost anything to help the country avoid getting a president who would be the most personally hated man or woman in the White House from day one.