Ron Paul says he won’t. Gary Johnson says he might. And Jon Huntsman just won’t say.
The Republican race for president seems -- for the moment -- to be increasingly a contest between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. And with fewer than five weeks until the leadoff Iowa caucuses, some of the also-rans in the GOP field are increasingly facing the question of whether they might mount a third-party run to keep their White House hopes alive.
Huntsman was coy Tuesday during an interview with the Boston Globe when asked directly whether there might be any situation in which he would run as an independent.
“I’m a lifelong Republican. I’m running as a Republican, and I fully anticipate that that’s where we’re going to be,” he said, even after being told anything other than a flat denial would keep speculation alive.
Huntsman is running a New Hampshire-or-bust strategy for the GOP nomination. Should he fail to advance -- he’s polled no better than 11% there -- he strikes many as the kind of person well-suited to an independent run.
He’s among the most-tracked national figures by Americans Elect, a privately funded effort to draft a centrist candidate and ensure he or she is on the ballot in all 50 states. The group plans a national primary this spring on the Internet to choose a candidate.
Ron Paul is the most-tracked candidate, according to the group’s website. But Paul told CNBC this morning that there is almost no chance of him carrying on unless he’s the Republican nominee.
“I don’t talk in absolutes, but I can’t imagine it. It just seems so unreasonable, I don’t want to do it, the system won’t permit it,” he said. Pressed on whether it was a possibility, he said: “If you think 1 out of 20 million is a possibility, I guess. But that’s not going to happen.”
Johnson, who like Huntsman has run a New Hampshire-based campaign, said in an interview this week that he’s abandoning that strategy and looking at running under the Libertarian Party banner.
“It’s exciting, the notion that by doing that I could be on the ballots of all 50 states in the general election and getting to continue to talk about a message,” the former governor of New Mexico told reporters in that state this week.
He didn’t think that would mean siphoning off votes from the eventual Republican nominee.
“Statistically speaking ... you really end up drawing from both parties,” Johnson said.
The Republicans are not alone. A one-time Democrat, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, says he’s going to launch a new national party and may be its first presidential nominee.
“This is about taking on the two corporatist, militarist parties and in the process bringing the people of this country together so they can see that their interests, by and large, are really aligned,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.