Conservative leaders launch effort to find alternative to Trump

Story highlights

  • The group includes radio talk show host Erick Erickson and former George W. Bush adviser Bill Wichterman
  • "We will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; but we will vote," the group said in a statement

Washington (CNN)A major group of conservatives that opposed Donald Trump for months is now promising to find an alternative candidate -- but is not vowing to support a third-party candidacy.

Saying this is not just a fight for the "heart and soul of the Republican Party" but a battle for the future of the country, the group known as Conservatives Against Trump issued a statement Saturday saying: "This week, Conservatives Against Trump launched a formal effort to identify an acceptable alternative candidate to run for president against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton."
    The group of activists -- which includes radio talk show host Erick Erickson, former George W. Bush adviser Bill Wichterman and businessman Bob Fischer -- did not specifically pledge to back a third-party or independent candidate. Nor did it say they will support the same person in every state.
    "We believe the political environment remains wide open for a qualified conservative candidate to emerge," the group said. "We are working to identify an alternative candidate, obtain the necessary ballot access through a state-by-state effort and develop a comprehensive campaign plan to enable victory in November."
    The group, which includes dozens of conservative leaders, vowed not to stay away from the polls come election day. "We will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; but we will vote," the statement concluded.
    Erickson told CNN's Dana Bash earlier this week, "Donald Trump cannot consolidate the Republican base, and many Republicans cannot accept a Hillary Clinton donor as the Republican nominee. If the delegates ratify this madness in Cleveland, many of us will look elsewhere for a credible candidate to oppose both Trump and Clinton." He added: "We will begin now laying the groundwork for an exit strategy from Donald Trump's Republican Party."
    As CNN previously reported, some of these activists participated in several conference calls this week trying to find a consensus about how to proceed now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and his last two opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, dropped out. While some supported backing a third-party candidate, others thought it was better to consider other ideas, such as a write-in candidate.