Can Trump Win as an Independent?

I’m the guy my friends reach out to in order to get a quick summary of a political situation so they don’t have to spend time researching it themselves. So that’s what I’m going to do today to answer this question: can Trump run as a third party candidate in 2024? The answer is: yes he can, and there’s zero chance he’d win. Ze-ro. The math doesn’t work thanks to “sore loser laws.”

Here’s a lengthy study that goes through all the data, but the summary is simple. If Donald Trump loses the Republican nomination, a bunch of states will bar him from running as a third party candidate. Far too many to math the electoral math work. For example, here’s what Texas’ law says, with a whopping 40 electoral votes:

“a candidate in a presidential primary election is ineligible to be an independent candidate for president . . . in the succeeding general election.”

Translation: if you run as a Republican in the primary, you cannot run as a third party in the general election. It’s an open-and-shut case, and Texas is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more states with the same laws, so if Trump doesn’t win the GOP nomination, he cannot be president.

But there’s one important caveat. He can still be a spoiler.

Despite having no chance to win, Trump could turn his campaign into a kamikaze-style attack just to spite Desantis and split the Republican Party’s votes. Would it be stupid? Yes. Would it run counter to Republican goals? Yes. Would it align to Trump’s goal of harming people he perceives to be his enemies? Yes. And that’s why he’ll strongly consider it.

Right now the odds are that Trump wins the Republican primary. But if he doesn’t win, watch out. Everything we know about him tells us he won’t go away quietly, or concede gracefully. He’d have zero mathematical chance to win, but a nearly 100% chance to hand Desantis a loss. He might just do it.