It's hidden there in plain sight, even if it hasn't happened since the election of 1825: The people will not pick the next president, Congress will.
We wrote about this last week on Medium, and now the story is beginning to flesh out.
With Marco Rubio suspending his campaign after losing the Florida primary and it is beginning to appear he will reverse his previous words to support a nominee Trump.
Because there will be a third party candidate -- and their name will likely be Mitt with a Kasich or a Rubio on the same ticket.
Michael Bloomberg practically left a breadcrumb for this theory in plain sight when he declared that he would not be running for President this cycle. While pundits focused on why the math wouldn't work out for Bloomberg against Trump or Hillary Clinton, the former mayor of New York City buried this interesting analysis in his op-ed this week.
In a three-way race, it's unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress. The fact is, even if I were to receive the most popular votes and the most electoral votes, victory would be highly unlikely, because most members of Congress would vote for their party's nominee. Party loyalists in Congress -- not the American people or the Electoral College -- would determine the next president.
What could be a major story-arc out of House of Cards or Veep may likely become a reality for our country come November when both Trump and Clinton do not secure a simple majority of electoral votes and Mitt Romney is elected President.
Here's how it will happen:
Donald Trump is going to win the Republican nomination out right. The establishment won't be able to stop him. He will get 50 percent. So there will be no brokered convention. There will be no Mitt Romney savior moment in Cleveland.
When Trump secures the nomination out right this summer, the establishment goes ballistic: Terrified at the prospect of losing their party with Donald Trump as president.
Suddenly they realize, "holy shit, what if we could stop Donald Trump and keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?"
So they run a moderate establishment Republican as a third-party candidate -- 100 percent as a spoiler candidate. Worst case scenario oh, they prevent Donald Trump from winning the White House. Best case scenario they pull enough votes away from Hillary Clinton to prevent her from securing the necessary majority of 270 electoral votes.
Then the election goes to a House of Representatives ballot presided over Speaker Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's former running mate in 2012.
If neither candidate gets 270 electoral college votes, Congress picks the president. And he will be called President Mitt, the one who is laying the groundwork for this doomsday electoral scenario.
It's right there, hidden in plain sight in the 12th Amendment of the US Constitution:
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.
And Congress can pick whomever they damn well please.
A moderate conservative third-party would definitely pull enough votes away from Trump to tank his candidacy, but the right candidate could also spoil it for Clinton.
If you remember, in the 1992 election, Bill Clinton was unable to secure a simple majority of the popular vote, with Ross Perot serving as a third party spoiler -- not only taking votes away from the Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush, but pinching off the odd moderate vote from the Democrats as well.
But Ross Perot was never able to win a state, thus, he was never awarded any electoral college votes.
In this cycle, however, a third party spoiler candidate could in fact carry a handful of states. Bloomberg recognized it and realized the grave implications of that type of candidacy -- taking the highest elected office in the free world out of the hands of the people and into the hands of a Tea Party-influenced, yet establishment-Republican Congress.
If you are an establishment Republican right now, this is actually an even better outcome than a brokered convention: Because you have even greater control over, not only the conservative nominee, but the ability to handpick the next president.
And Speaker Ryan will ensure that Mitt Romney will be handpicked. Why else would you fly out for dinner in Utah?
The election of 1825 is our reference for this crazy-likely theory.
The election was actually in 1824 and Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, raking in 42 percent. John Quincy Adams came in distant second with barely over 30 percent of the popular vote. William Crawford and then Speaker of the House Henry Clay came in third and fourth respectively. Problem was, no one won a majority of the electoral college (also fun-fact: all four of the candidates were part of the same party, the Democratic-Republicans. Oh, also: Crawford had a stroke after the November election). With no legally elected President, the decision was kicked over to the House, where they deliberated for 3 months to determine who would be the victor.
Lobbyists? Everyone thinks they were invented in the lobby of the Willard Hotel during the U.S. Grant Presidency 45 years later. But believe it, lobbyists were in full effect those three months. And, they delivered the "Corrupt Bargain:" an unprecedented decision where Henry Clay presided over the ever-so-unpopular-with-the-electorate election of John Quincy Adams.
The battle's been lost, the war is not won
There is potentially a corrupt bargain underway in plain sight in the election of 2016 with the possibility of not only saving the Republican party but remake American electoral politics. John Kasich won big in the Ohio primary -- he could carry Ohio again in the general.
Just imagine: a third party spoiler candidacy is waged by Mitt Romney (choosing, say Kasich as his running mate). The addled country is fatigued by Donald Trump's endless shenanigans as well as burned out by the scorched earth campaign against Hillary and her emails.
Ohio goes. So does Michigan. And Utah. Maybe Idaho and/or the Dakotas.
With even just one of those states spoiled, you have a doomsday scenario where both Donald and Hillary do not have a majority of electoral college votes.
And so the election goes into 2017 -- and Speaker Ryan holds the gavel.
Where does the hammer drop?
Adam Phillips is pastor of Christ Church: Portland (Ore.). He formerly led faith mobilization for The One Campaign (ONE.org).
This harebrained theory was co-conceived and written with Chris LaTondresse, VP of Communications and Strategy at The Expectations Project and former advisor at USAID's Center for Faith Based and Community Initiatives.