So what happens if the Republicans split? Matt Continetti notes that this scenario is extremely unlikely, but it’s interesting, and fun, to contemplate all the same. The hurdles a right-wing third party would have to clear are very high indeed.
But what if the third party was a marriage of hard-right anti-immigration social conservatives and the Club for Growth? This would be awkward as Giuliani is occupying much of the space, yet we can see how this would play out in theory. Would such a party, drawing 10 percent of the population at most, concentrated almost entirely in the Old South, doom the rump Republicans?
Consider the 2000 election. Al Gore campaigned hard in Madison, Wisconsin at the tail end of the election in an effort to blunt the Naderites. In 1948, in contrast, Truman won a resounding victory despite the defection of the Dixiecrats and the Wallace Progressives. Why was that? As a border-state culturally conservative social democrat, he was able to portray the Democrats as Roosevelt’s national party. By naming Joe Lieberman as his running mate, Gore gestured in the direction of making the Democrats the national party. But there was something about Gore’s cultural profile that undermined this effort.
What if the rump Republicans recast themselves as the national party? For example, though the party would be divided between pro-abortion and anti-abortion factions, it would be united around the principle of local democracy. It’s easy to imagine many of the rebels being drawn back into the fold over time, and it’s easy to see how such a party, having jettisoned elements that repel voters outside of the South, could do reasonably well.
This, of course, is all idle and unlikely.