Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French — whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.
French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tennessee, with his wife Nancy and three children.
Reached in Israel late Tuesday afternoon, Kristol declined to comment on his efforts to induce French to run. The two Republicans confirmed that French is open to launching a bid, but that he has not made a final decision. One of the Republicans added that French has not lined up a vice-presidential running mate or significant financial support. However, according to this person, some conservative donors look favorably on the prospect of French entering the fray.
In Kristol’s piece in the Standard’s June 6 issue, he argued that ‘‘the fact of Trump’s and Clinton’s unfitness for the Oval Office has become so self-evident that it’s no longer clear one needs a famous figure to provide an alternative.’’ After mentioning Mitt Romney and other possibilities such as Judd Gregg and Mel Martinez, Kristol invoked French’s name and résumé, writing, ‘‘To say that he would be a better and a more responsible president than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is to state a truth that would become self-evident as more Americans got to know him.’’
Ever since Kristol tweeted on Sunday that an ‘‘impressive’’ independent candidate ‘‘with a strong team and a real chance’’ is now prepared to enter the presidential fray, the political world has been engaged in a fevered guessing game over whom that person might be.
Shortly after Kristol fired off that provocative missive on Sunday, he left for Israel and has been avoiding the press, speaking only through a series of tweets taunting Trump for responding to Kristol’s Sunday tweet. Speculation had centered on 2012 Republican nominee Romney, freshman Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, and other current and former state and federal office-holders.
According to one person deeply involved in the efforts to recruit an independent challenger, the search has focused on individuals who have one or more of the following three traits seen as vital for credibly launching such a bid: fame, vast wealth, and elective experience. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, French declined to answer questions about any possible run.