Yes, There Is A Path For A Third Party Candidate To Win The White House... But It Is Narrow

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024 - 01:20 AM

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

One of the most interesting dynamics in this election is the impact of third party candidates from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Cornel West to a yet-to-be-named candidate with the No Labels ticket.

Both Democratic and Republican operatives have been actively dismissing the ability of any third party candidate to win, including claims that the No Labels group has waited too long to get on ballots. I do not believe that is true.

There is a path for a third party alternative to both Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

However, that path is rather narrow and rocky.

Sources with No Labels have pushed back on the media narratives by noting that Ross Perot did not enter the race until February of 1992. The group insists that it can make the ballot in all 50 states, but would likely seek a ballot spot in 32 states. The group noted that signature requirements are lower for candidates if they seek to run as individuals as opposed to seeking the addition of a party.

That is correct, though the signature requirements can still be daunting. Yet, No Labels did meet the requirement in Maryland recently for party recognition. What is clear is that the path is narrowing with the passage of time. No Labels currently has no candidate.

The requirements for states vary significantly. In California, they will need 219,000 signatures while, in Maine, they only need roughly 5,000 signatures. Joining an existing party like the Libertarian Party or Green Party allows a candidate to use an existing platform and infrastructure. Kennedy is rumored to be considering a run with the libertarians.

Even with third party candidates on the ballot, it is notoriously difficult for such a candidate to break through our duopoly of power given the hold of the two main parties on the process.

However, it is also important to note that an outright electoral victory is not necessarily the only option for these candidates. Polls  show that sixty-seven percent of voters want someone other than Biden or Trump.

Yet, in the primaries, neither Democrats nor Republicans are opting to make a change. Both Biden and Trump appear to be on an easy glide path to their respective nominations.

Much can change this year from convictions of Trump to a withdrawal by Biden. There could be a seismic event that leaves a “dark horse” candidate as the front runner.

The more intriguing path would be through the Congress. With the country bitterly divided between these candidates, there is a chance that neither candidate might receive the needed 270 electoral votes in the Electoral College. If there is a “contingent election,” the Twelfth Amendment kicks in with the House of Representatives selecting a president and the Senate selecting a vice president. In the House, the members vote as state delegations.

The divided Congress could make all of this . . . well . . . challenging. It is also not clear how the political dynamics will look for these politicians. In the mix, a third party candidate could emerge as a compromise candidate if the division leaves neither Biden or Trump with enough support.

We have only used the Twelfth Amendment a couple of times. However elections like 1825 and 1837 show that such conflicts can present unexpected alliances.

For example, Andrew Jackson secured a plurality of both popular and electoral votes. However, he needed 131 electoral votes out of the 261 votes of the college. He only had 99 votes after the election. John Quincy Adams had 84. The third candidate, William Crawford had 41. While Henry Clay had 37 votes, the first three went to the first round balloting. Clay eventually threw his support behind Adams who later made him Secretary of State.

If a third party candidate were to secure electoral votes, he or she could make that first balloting. If the Congress were to deadlock, a third party compromise candidate could become more attractive given the rejection of the majority for the two leading candidates.

Is that likely? No. However, to quote Maya Angelou,  “ain’t nothing to it, but to do it.”