Is there still time for a viable third-party candidate?

State of the 2016 Race
A column for The Hill analyzing the current state of the 2016 presidential race.

Can there still be a viable third candidate in this year's presidential election?

1. Everywhere I go — and I mean any and everywhere — I run into the same sad/angry/confused/disillusioned look on people's faces as they ask me, "Is there anyone else we can vote for besides these two?"

2. "These two" are, of course, likely Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE and presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE — the two most unpopular candidates ever to run for president. Period.

3. For weeks, now we have been teased and tempted by the possibility of another candidate.

4. We've heard of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney maybe running; he's consistently denied it.


5. Bill Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, has been conducting a search for a third candidate — not to win the election or even to throw the race into the House of Representatives (this is on TV now, all the time); no, the plan is just to siphon 5 percent of the vote away from Trump, thus guaranteeing that he cannot win.

6. The shame of this plan is that it does not address the voters' concern: electing someone other than Clinton or Trump.

7. Instead, it is done out of spite or hatred or anger toward Trump, who did win the GOP nomination fair and square. It is not his fault that the other 16 candidates were flat tires and duds.

8. The leak that Kristol's vaunted independent candidate is a writer named David French (whom Romney has praised on social media) is — frankly — a sad joke.

9. French is a veteran, a patriot, a brain, a good writer, but not a viable presidential candidate.

10. Why even bother with this guy?

11. There is a gigantic vacuum in this race.

12. There is a yearning for a real leader who does not have the baggage that Clinton and Trump both have.

13. By the way, one of the reasons Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change through finance | Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' | Don't attack Zoom for its Bernie Sanders federal tax bill Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez introduce 'Green New Deal for Public Housing' MORE (Vt.) continues to do so well in the race for the Democratic nomination is that he is seen as honest and "authentic" — even if he is a wild-eyed "democratic socialist."

14. In a year when change is the mantra — and when the voters agree that the system is rigged and all politicians are crooks — isn't it amazing that the two (probable) nominees are seen as the most dishonest and untrustworthy?

15. That is why Sanders is closing in on Clinton, and why he trounces Trump in general election match-ups.

16. OK. So there is indeed a vacuum and a call for a third candidate. And it is not David French, nor is it the Libertarian Party ticket, former Govs. Gary Johnson (N.M.) and Bill Weld (Mass.). Their positions on the legalization of drugs and American projection of power are out of the mainstream — and these two men don't look good on TV.

17. It is the beginning of June. The two conventions are not for six and seven weeks, respectively.

18. There indeed is still time for a credible — an in-it-to-win-it third candidate — to appear.

19. This candidate (whom my TV colleague, Pat Caddell, calls "Mr. Smith") needs to possess unique political talents. "Smith" needs to be positioned correctly so that he/she can attack both Clinton and Trump from a position of strength.

20. Smith also has to be good on TV, and have excellent political instincts.

21. But most important, Smith has to be able to lead the country out of a political morass that has become the biggest political problem we face.

22. Trump has ridden a wave, but hasn't embraced it properly.

23. He has made it all about himself, when it isn’t about him at all.

24. Sanders understands that this is a movement, and that for this cycle, he's on top of it.

25. But he could exit the stage and that movement continues.

26. Candidate Smith needs to ride in and take some of the Trump people, some of the Sanders people, and independents, too, and sell them on this:

27. "Our government is a corrupt enterprise. From top to bottom, it is rotten to the core. Now, your choice is to put Hillary Clinton in charge of this corrupt government, and who can believe anything would change? Or put Donald Trump in charge. But he seems to be too erratic and angry, and doesn't really have any solutions. Clinton will continue the corruption. And Trump does not have a clue how to turn this thing around. But I do."

28. This message — from the right "Smith" — could win in 2016.

29. We have seven weeks for him or her to emerge.

LeBoutillier is a former Republican congressman from New York and is the co-host of "Political Insiders" on Fox News Channel, Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. He writes semi-regular pieces in the Contributors section on the "State of the 2016 Race."