If this primary election battle continues on this unusual fiery path, there may well be an independent candidate offered up as a more “consensus” alternative?  Here’s some background an independent candidate will have to face:

No candidate outside of the two major parties has broken one percent of the popular vote in the last three decades, but four of six presidential elections from 1980 to 2000 featured impactful outsider candidates:

In 2000, Ralph Nader infamously played spoiler to Al Gore by garnering 2.7 percent of votes, including nearly 100,000 in pivotal Florida where Gore lost by the tiny margin of 537 votes.  The effectiveness of Nader’s campaign in convincing significant numbers of voters that the two parties were wanting, especially when it came to the treatment of big  business, put Democrats on notice that they needed to attend to their left flank.

Speaking a businessman’s outsider language that somewhat resembles Trump’s, H. Ross Perot became a phenomenon in 1992, winning almost 19 percent of the popular vote in November, although he got zero electoral votes.   He partially reprised his earlier run in 1996, establishing the Reform Party and winning eight percent.  Perot probably did not swing either election (since his supporters were largely irregular voters and he did not “steal” disproportionately from either party), but his participation changed the tenor of those campaigns, and perhaps even helped lay the groundwork for the dramatic, anti-Washington Republican victory in the 1994 midterms.

More germane to a Trump 2016 scenario is John B. Anderson, the moderate Republican Illinois House member who broke from his party in April 1980 to run a “National Unity Campaign.”  Anderson, who had run a surprising but hopeless third place in the early Republican primaries behind Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, rejected Reagan’s doctrinaire, ideological conservatism and sought to occupy the political center.  By June, Anderson was polling at 26 percent and looked genuinely viable.  His high-minded, detail-oriented political style favorably contrasted with the cynical, partisan feel of normal campaigns, and, at his peak, he was the top choice of college graduates, professionals, and suburbanites.  But the campaign wore off Anderson’s shine.  Given the heights of Anderson’s promise, it seemed a disappointment when he finished with just 6.6 percent of the national popular vote—though clearly that level of support would be more than enough to swing many elections.

The greatest object of speculation along these lines is Michael Bloomberg, whose wonkish and nonpartisan success as Mayor of New York from 2002-2013 endeared him to America’s business community and to many self-identified centrists.  Bloomberg’s immense wealth, impressive record as an executive in both business and politics, and ability to attract socially liberal but fiscally conservative Democrats would make him a formidable third party force to reckon with.

Bloomberg (soon turning 74) has consistently deflected suggestions that he run, saying he doubts that a “short, Jewish, divorced billionaire” could be electable.  He has a point.  Then again, he’s apparently been taking the electorate’s temperature, so it’s not out of the question.  He’s well known and well thought of in the east, but not as much west of the Hudson.

Some analysts like Norm Ornstein in the Washington Post are quick to dismiss the chances of an independent winning within our current voting rules.

Ornstein, in his op-ed, focuses on the alleged barriers created by the Electoral College.  He postulates that if an independent candidate and the major party nominees each won about a third of the vote, “no candidate would come close to the majority of 270 required, under the Constitution, for victory,” thereby throwing the choice of president to Congress and its bizarre rules of the Senate picking the vice-president based on one Senator, one vote and the House picking the president based on one vote per state delegation.

Independents have won seats in Congress and a few governors won election, although their record of success has been spotty at best.  On the presidential level, they have mainly been spoilers.

A somewhat different view is taken by Don Rumsfeld, whose long career in government service allows him to offer a different perspective.

Rumsfeld feels we are somewhat unique in having a two-party system which serves us well and needs to be preserved.  An independent, he feels, can win if he declares during his candidacy which of the two major political parties he would “caucus with,” if elected.

I personally think Rumsfeld stayed a year or two too long at Bush’s dance party.  He does have a very extensive resume in all facets of government however.

Not at all sure any independent candidate will see the wisdom of that position.

Another scenario being discussed is that no Republican candidate will be able to emerge from the primary scrum with the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination.  The result of that possibility will be an “open convention” and all the cartoon-like images of smoke-filled rooms of wheeler and dealers.

If Hillary were to get indicted for her email shenanigans, it would open the door for Joe Biden to resurface with prexy Obama’s support or maybe even John Kerry.

Chances of an indictment, however, are very slim.  Don’t believe Obama would okay the indictment of Hillary.

May just have to live with who we have.

Oh, l before I forget.  In all our history, George Washington was the only independent candidate to ever win the presidency.


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