Erickson: Conservatives eye third party candidate

Story highlights

  • Conservative blogger Erick Erickson says he's seeking a third-party presidential candidate
  • His push comes as some anti-Trump Republicans back out of attending the convention in Cleveland

Washington (CNN)Conservative blogger and radio host Erick Erickson said Wednesday he's had a number of conversations about laying the groundwork for a third-party candidate to oppose Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Erickson, a leader of the #NeverTrump movement, told CNN that he plans more such conversations in the coming days, and that the consensus among anti-Trump conservatives is that voters who won't support Trump or Clinton need another option.
"Donald Trump cannot consolidate the Republican base and many Republicans cannot accept a Hillary Clinton donor as the Republican nominee," Erickson said. "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."
    Erickson said several names are being floated, but wouldn't say whom. Erickson added that he and other conservatives interested in a third-party candidate understand that they're facing a tight window to recruit a candidate and launch a campaign.
    The conservative push to find a third-party candidate comes as party loyalists who'd sought delegate slots at the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland back out, saying they can't support Trump.
    In Indiana, Joshua Claybourn, an Evansville Republican, had already claimed a delegate spot for the RNC -- but told CNN he's backing out.
    "I will neither vote for, nor in any other way support, Mr. Trump," he said in a statement. Claybourn pointed to Trump's opposition of free trade deals, the candidate's "skeptical" approach to free speech, and Trump's lack of "a mature temperament needed at home and abroad."
    He said: "I believe a Trump presidency would bring less peace, more economic hardship, and a greater deterioration of freedom and respect. I cannot in good conscience attend a convention supporting him."
    Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who has long opposed Trump, wrote a Facebook post calling for a third-party candidate.
    "With Clinton and Trump, the fix is in. Heads, they win; tails, you lose," Sasse wrote. "Why are we confined to these two terrible options? This is America. If both choices stink, we reject them and go bigger. That's what we do."
    He added that although he is a staunch conservative, he's "not interested in an ideological purity test, because even a genuine consensus candidate would almost certainly be more conservative than either of the two dishonest liberals now leading the two national parties."
    Art Pope, an influential North Carolina donor, said he withdrew his name from the delegate slate for the upcoming state convention there, saying he no longer wants to go to Cleveland.
    "At this point in time I do not plan to actively support Donald Trump," Pope told CNN. "That's why I'm not going to the Republican National Convention."