For example, if Donald Trump lost a primary in 2024, he could still run for president. If so, he might theoretically want to appeal to Republican voters by claiming to be "the real republican candidate" and accusing the official candidate of being a "RINO." What limitations would he face in executing such a campaign? Can a candidate run as a party X candidate without an official endorsement from the party? Are there any historical examples of this sort of thing?

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    To addess the close vote: I am not asking for anyone's opinion about whether this is "right or wrong", I am asking about barriers to doing this thing. For example, there might be trademark problems, or various jurisdictions may have laws about this.
    – Him
    Nov 10, 2022 at 2:13
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    Also, if there are historical examples of individuals running as, say, a Whig without having an endorsement from the official Whig party, I don't see how such citations might be opinion-based.
    – Him
    Nov 10, 2022 at 2:20
  • It is possible that this is marked "opinion-based" because the mere mention of the name "Donald Trump" tends to incite strong opinions? This was merely an example. I am happy to invent another hypothetical to illustrate my question.
    – Him
    Nov 10, 2022 at 2:22
  • There are no rules for claiming party membership and there is no one rule about getting on the ballot as another party if you lose a primary and in some cases it is against the rules.
    – Joe W
    Nov 10, 2022 at 2:25
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    I don't have the rules for all 50 states + DC on what it takes to get on the ballot for a party or what happens if you lose a primary, that can be a very long answer. And honestly what you might see as a limitation others might not
    – Joe W
    Nov 10, 2022 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


Can a candidate run as a party X candidate without an official endorsement from the party?

No, because it is the party rather than the candidate that gives official endorsement. A losing primary candidate from party X for president could however theoretically claim to be an independent or win in some other party's primary (or gain endorsement by some other party in some other way) in all but two states, South Dakota and Texas.

All but three states have some kind of sore loser law that precludes a party switch for some elections between losing a primary and the general election. However, all but South Dakota and Texas have clarified their sore loser laws to state that they do not apply to presidential elections.

It is the national party rather than the state that decides who gets to carry that party's label during a presidential election. I do not know what would happen if someone ran for president in party X's primary in South Dakota or Texas, switched to party Y, and then won enough primaries to win that party's convention.

  • "It is the national party rather than the state that decides who gets to carry that party's label during a presidential election": how or where is this rule established? What prevents a state party from putting Alice on the ballot despite the national party having nominated Bob? My guess is that this is solely an internal matter of party discipline. If that is correct, then a rogue candidate not endorsed by a party would not be subject to this discipline, so it wouldn't apply to the circumstances in question. What stops Carol in this situation from claiming to represent the "true" party?
    – phoog
    Nov 10, 2022 at 8:04
  • What reasons are there for sore loser laws. Like apart from messing with the ballot creation which could be fixed by a registration date, there doesn't seem to be a good reason for them to exist and they sound pretty anti-democratic to be honest.
    – haxor789
    Nov 10, 2022 at 11:40
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    @phoog The conditions by which a person can be listed as a candidate for a national office are set by individual states. Each state has its own laws, but they typically involve deferring to the parties. Individual candidates cannot list themselves as running as a party's candidate unless the party approves. State laws are written by politicians, who are for the most part are members of one of the two dominant parties. The laws protect the dominant parties. In some states it is very hard for a third party candidate to get on the ballot. (continued) Nov 10, 2022 at 12:38
  • What stops Carol from being listed on some state's ballot in preference to Bob is that the state party needs support (lots of support) from the national party. The country hasn't seen a party implode in modern times. Parties have imploded in the past, and things tended not to work out well for the imploding party. Nov 10, 2022 at 12:42
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    @haxor789 The laws were written by state legislatures, which are close to 100% Democrat or Republican. Each of the dominant parties work hard protect themselves (i.e., gerrymandering), and occasionally, work jointly to protect one other. These laws are one of the many reasons for why there is a two party system in the US. Nov 10, 2022 at 12:47

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