Republican voters have welcomed Donald Trump with open arms. More than twice as many back him in polls as any other candidate. In charts, support for Trump looks like a moonshot. Trump would seem to have little incentive to take his presidential run independent. But lingering doubts about Trump’s ideological purity – he is a past Democratic donor and former supporter of abortion rights – and about the willingness of party elders to embrace him have fuelled speculation that, at some point, Trump might take his act solo. Trump himself has propped the door open on a third-party run – most famously at the start of the Republican debate earlier this month. “I’m a frontrunner – obviously I’d much rather run as Republican and let that be clear,” he told MSNBC. “And I just want to see if somebody gets in that I like and if I’m treated with respect, I would not run as an independent. But I want to leave the option open just in case that doesn’t happen.” Running as an independent, however, would require more than a change of heart by Trump – it would require a national campaign to document the support of hundreds of thousands of voters across the country, in the form of signed petitions and new voter registrations.
Even then, quirks in local election laws, and the judgment of local officials, could conceivably keep Trump off the ballot in multiple states, said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, a monthly newsletter devoted to voting laws.
“It is hard. Definitely it’s hard,” Winger said of registering as a national third-party candidate, in an interview with the Guardian. “But people are capable of using their brains.”
Winger advised that in most states, so-called sore-loser laws, which ban a candidate who loses a primary from switching parties for a general election, have been shown not to apply to presidential elections, because presidential party nominations are not won or lost in any one state.