In March, GOP elites who've joined the Never Trump movement met in Washington, D.C., to discuss plans to derail the Republican presidential front-runner and set up a Plan B if they can't stop him at the party's convention in Cleveland.
Even those who hate Donald Trump with a passion have been reluctant to rally around his most successful challenger, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who the Atlantic describes as "a candidate many members of the anti-Trump GOP establishment despise nearly as much as Trump."
So who could be that third-party savior who unites disaffected Republicans and carries them to victory on election day? For the Never Trump movement, the best they've got is former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a man with two disastrous presidential campaigns to his credit, one of which spawned a campaign commercial so absurd that it's still being lampooned in memes to this day.
"We’ll worry about the candidate later," Erick Erickson, a conservative talk show host and Never Trump leader from Georgia, told The Atlantic.
The problem is, there is no "later."
In several states, including delegate-rich states like Texas, California and Michigan, the deadline to register an independent or third-party candidate is in May or June. That means Republican leaders who despise Trump will have to make their decision before the GOP convention in July or back a candidate who won't appear on the ballot in key states.
If Never Trump's biggest backers are honest with themselves, backing a third-party candidate won't be about trying to win the election -- it'll be about playing spoiler to Trump and handing the White House to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
While Trump has sky-high disapproval ratings, Clinton almost matches him in that department. Among Republicans, Clinton fares even worse. In other words, the Republican base isn't going to look kindly on an attempt to destroy Trump's campaign out of spite, especially if that attempt is guaranteed to hand Clinton the presidency.
Maybe the old-time GOP power brokers who are leading the charge against Trump -- the money men and thought leaders who have the most to lose from the candidate's fiery brand of populism -- have already given up on the base. Maybe they just don't care. But they'll nuke the bridges back to reconciliation and do irreversible damage to the party with a spite campaign.
That's especially true if the consequences of their third-party spoiler bid ripple out for decades, with a Supreme Court stacked with Clinton appointees and losses in key political battles.
But most of all, a third-party or independent run just doesn't make sense: While it might be what the elites want, it isn't what the base wants. A national poll, released March 29 by Public Policy Polling, shows the majority of GOP primary voters would be comfortable with a Trump nomination. For all Trump's negatives, he also has the highest favorable ratings among registered Republicans and the highest percentage of voters who say they're already locked in to their choice.
Technically, it isn't too late to field a third-party candidate. But realistically, propping up another candidate this late in the game will derail any chance the Republicans have of putting a candidate in the White House at a time when the stakes have never been higher.
The leaders of the Never Trump movement should think long and hard about what they're trying to do and whether they'll still feel good about a spite campaign on the morning of Nov. 9, when former Secretary of State Clinton becomes President-elect Clinton.