Cruz and Kasich are out. Donald Trump will apparently be the Republican nominee for President. Last night’s results in Indiana saw to that. But I believe the Republicans won’t leave that alone for long.
Some establishment GOP pols will rally around Trump with teeth gritted, at least until after the convention. But regardless of the eventual Democratic nominee, I believe someone who is considered “establishment GOP” will mount an independent run for President, with the backing of many other establishment GOPers (Romney and Perry seem the most likely to me at the moment, with Kasich also a possibility). They will focus the campaign on a small number of states, the ones their analysis tells them they have the best chance of winning outright.
Their goal will not be to win the Electoral College — it will be to prevent both Trump and the Democratic nominee from reaching the 270 Electoral Votes necessary to winning a majority. If they accomplish that, the Constitution (Twelfth Amendment, specifically) requires that the House of Representatives (voting by state delegation, one vote per state) elect the President from the top three candidates in the Electoral College results, and presumably the House will vote for the establishment/independent, not for Trump.
Will they succeed? Honestly, there’s a pretty high bar to an independent candidacy in the first place. Whoever it is will need a ton of valid petition signatures, and very soon — e.g., about 80,000 in Texas by May 9, about 90,000 in North Carolina by June 9 — and nobody who voted in either party primary can sign those petitions.
Another logistical challenge is that if either of the two major nominees has a large enough Electoral College lead, particularly in swing states, it won’t matter if the “independent” can take a few of them away. (For example, right now some polling maps are showing a Clinton win over Trump with anywhere from 300 to 338 votes, and numbers trending in Clinton’s favor over recent weeks. Even if a Rick Perry candidacy could win Texas’s 28 votes, or Kasich win Ohio’s 18, Clinton’s margin would still be too much.)
It’s a long way to November, and even until post-convention in July. But I believe that this is what someone’s going to attempt.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be an “interesting” summer.