Erick Erickson Urges Republicans To Prepare 'Third-Party Alternative'
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
As Donald Trump looks more likely to become the Republican nominee for president, some prominent Republicans are looking for other options. Erick Erickson founded the conservative website The Resurgent. He has thrown his support behind Ted Cruz. And today, he writes, the time to prepare a third-party alternative has to begin now even though we would prefer to stop Trump within the Republican primary process. Erick Erickson, welcome to the show.
ERICK ERICKSON: Thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: A lot of people have talked about a contested Republican convention to prevent Donald Trump from getting the Republican nomination. You are talking about a presidential race with three candidates where none of the three gets 270 electoral votes and the House of Representatives decides who's president.
SHAPIRO: Do you really think that's best for American democracy?
ERICKSON: I think that if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, the Republican Party ceases to be the party that I was an elected representative of. It becomes a protectionist, anti-immigration party, which is something I want no part of. So there is going to have to be the groundwork for a new political party in the country that represents people who typically have been Republican voters in the past.
SHAPIRO: How do you feel about that? I mean, that is a massive schism within American politics.
ERICKSON: Yeah, it is, but it's not historically anomalous, however. And at some point, Republicans in Washington, who I do think share a lot of the blame for this, became very tone-deaf to voters in the heartland. And voters in the heartland are so angry, they're willing to go with a guy like Donald Trump to burn down Washington, so to speak, metaphorically.
And Republicans clearly are out to lunch. So there's going to have to be a new vehicle. The Republican Party seems not to understand what's going on in the country anymore, and it's giving birth to a new party that is completely disconnected from the values of a lot of people in the heartland.
SHAPIRO: There have been so many stop-Trump plans over the last few months. Each one seems to have fizzled. Do you believe this one - to offer a third-party candidate - would actually work?
ERICKSON: I think it probably could just based on the data. Although, again, the plan is still to try to stop him from getting 1,237 delegates, and this is the ultimate fallback. What we see in the data, again, is that about 40 percent of Republican voters will not vote for Donald Trump. I am one of them. They don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton either.
I think ultimately, Donald Trump's nomination gets Hillary Clinton elected. Whether we did this or not, the same data that shows Donald Trump doing well with Republicans shows that he is only beating Hillary Clinton in 2 out of the last 15 polls. I mean, the odds of him beating Hillary Clinton in swing states is virtually zero.
SHAPIRO: Of course, it's not only the presidency that is up for election in November. What does a Donald Trump nomination mean for races for the down-the-ballot?
ERICKSON: Well, exit polling in just the swing states of Ohio and Florida, North Carolina and Missouri show that about 40 percent of non-Trump voters don't want to turn out for Donald Trump in November. So if they don't turn out for Donald Trump in November, you potentially lose congressional races. You lose state legislative races. You lose governors' mansions. So these voters do have to have an incentive to turn up in November and vote.
SHAPIRO: And so is part of the incentive for getting a third-party candidate option out there just to save some of these down-ballot Republicans?
ERICKSON: Very much so. If voters don't turn out to vote for a presidential candidate, they're not probably going to turn out and vote for state and local legislative races as well, which could be a real bloodbath for Republicans.
SHAPIRO: Tell us about this meeting tomorrow where you and other Republicans are discussing the path forward for a third-party option.
ERICKSON: Well, it's a group of conservatives - fiscal and social together - who are opposed to a Donald Trump candidacy. And the first thing on the agenda, really, is to see, is there room for everyone to set aside grievances - everyone has them about each other's candidates - and say, OK, we all have to rally to Ted Cruz and figure out what to do about about John Kasich in order to deny Donald Trump 1,237 delegates which he would need to be the nominee.
If we can do that, everyone may set aside the third-party option. If it doesn't seem that there is a viable consensus there, well, then the legwork still has to pursue on this third-party option as kind of the last lifeboat option.
SHAPIRO: You know, I'm reminded of a line from an episode of "The West Wing" (laughter). The quote is, "that's the way it is. In a democracy, oftentimes the other people win." Is it time for you to just accept that?
ERICKSON: Well, I may be the other people to the Trump voters. No, I don't think it's time to accept Donald Trump.
SHAPIRO: Erick Erickson of the conservative website The Resurgent on the search for a third-party nominee to challenge Donald Trump, thanks for joining us.
ERICKSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.