Pollster Scott Rasmussen let the cat out of the bag with his presidential preference poll in late December: the American public believes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the Democratic and Republican nominees, but they don’t really want to elect either of them.

Rasmussen asked for preferences for president but gave voters an option of “other” along with Clinton and Trump.  Clinton led by a point at 37 percent with Trump at 36 percent, but a whopping 22 percent said they would prefer another candidate.  Clinton holds her own party getting 75 percent of Democratic voters, but Trump gets only 63 percent of Republicans.

GOP presidential candidates regularly get 90 percent of Republican voters, but in poll after poll a third of Republicans have said they will never vote for Trump.  Among all voters under the age of 40 Trump is getting only 27 percent; his best showing is among the elderly and white voters.  And even among white voters, Trump is only running at 41 percent to 31 percent for Clinton.  Clinton, as expected, carries virtually all the non-white vote.

Clinton’s weakness as a candidate was demonstrated throughout 2015 where many polls showed her losing to the non-Trump Republicans.  She manages to beat Trump largely because he has dragged the Republicans into a cesspool of bigotry and racism that none of its leaders wanted.

My first 2016 prediction: count on a third party candidate this fall if the choice is Clinton and Trump.  And unlike Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, or George Wallace before him, it will be an established politician running in the center, not a fringy protest candidate.

Clinton has followed President Obama in taking the Democratic Party farther and farther to the left; in the process repudiated the centrist accomplishment of President Bill Clinton in areas like free trade, welfare reform and criminal justice.        Under Obama, Democrats have ceased to exist in all of the Old South and most of the Border States, as well as in rural America.

This is the primary reason for the GOP majorities in Congress today.  And Clinton shows no interest in winning back any of them.  She doesn’t really have to, because in a two party race the concentration of Democrats in major population centers gives them a near lock on the Electoral College and the Presidency.  But a three way race might be something different.

The emergence of former Southern Democrats as newly minted Republicans is a primary reason Trump has taken over the Republican Party.  Nate Cohn, the New York Times political numbers guys, has just published a fascinating study looking at who and where the Trump voters are.  He finds that Trump is strongest in the Appalachia and mountain states running from Louisiana to upstate New York.  That is a lot of the country, and Trump adds to them Republicans in many rural areas where voters have abandoned the Democratic Party.

“He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North,” Cohn writes of Trump’s strength.

This is no surprise, these are the voters who are left behind by the high tech- information age-entertainment economy, and among whom racial resentments run the deepest.  But these are not, however, the traditional Republican voters: the small business owners, farmers, middle management and fiscal conservatives who think the Democrats are spendthrifts but don’t want to wallow in racism.

So Republicans fracturing into two parties is not at all out of the question.  Cohn’s study shows that Trump is weakest in the West; no surprise once again as this is the traditional Reagan Republican country where most Republicans have made their peace with the nation’s rapid demographic changes.  These are low tax, fiscally conservative Republicans for whom the Trump anger has less appeal.

Here also is the largest concentration of “never vote for Trump” Republicans.  They will be open to a third party challenge, although it is hard to see right now who that might be.  Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Reagan Administration and briefly ran for president as a Democrat, has made some noises about an independent candidacy.  As Trump consolidates the GOP nomination, look for more to emerge.

There is another reason for a third party candidate; that may be all that saves down ballot Republicans from a terrible thrashing.  Many Republican incumbents, outside the South at least, serve in districts where they must get some Democratic votes to win.  None can be looking forward to a GOP presidential nominee who gets no Democratic votes and loses a third of Republican votes.

Consider California’s Republicans.  Every election cycle party registration drops; if a Republican candidate had to depend only on GOP registration to win, there would not be a single one holding office in this state as there is not a single legislative or Congressional district with a majority of Republican voters.

The Democratic legislature is busy changing the law to increase Democratic registration and turnout, and Trump’s anti-Latino and anti-Asian rhetoric sure to increase minority Democratic turnout.  It turns out a majority of the world’s Muslims that Trump wants to exclude from America are Asians.  And Trump is a supporter of Japanese internment in World War II which he uses to justify his desire to roundup all the Mexicans and get keep out all the Muslims.

So it is not hard to see Republican losing up to a third of their California incumbents with a Trump led ticket.  And it is not just in California, the GOP majority in the US Senate would surely fall with a Trump candidacy, giving Hillary Clinton the ability to reshape the US Supreme Court in her first term.

So as 2016 unfolds, count on some really big political implosions this year, and one of the biggest might be the Republican Party itself.