Could Third-Party Candidate Win White House in 2012?

Expert Curtis Gans explains the conditions needed for an election surprise.

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Conditions could be right for a third-party candidate to win the presidency next year, according to noted elections expert Curtis Gans.

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In a major new study released today on voter attitudes and turnout possibilities, Gans points out that a private group called "Americans Elect" has been working industriously to qualify a third-party ticket for the ballot in all 50 states. This well-financed effort, coupled with sagging trust in the major parties and other factors, could mean a third-party ticket "might win," Gans concludes.

Gans says there are five "minimal conditions" for such an effort to succeed:

  • "A deep feeling that the nation is on the wrong track."
  • "Disaffection with the two major parties and their candidates."
  • "A line on the ballot in every state."
  • "Adequate money to conduct a competitive campaign."
  • "Candidates for president and vice president who the public can feel are competent to fulfill the duties of those offices and who offer hope of something different than what has occurred" under Democratic President Obama or his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.
  • Gans says, "If the economy is not in clear recovery mode, the first four of those conditions will be in place. It remains to be seen whether Americans Elect will be able to recruit potential nominees [for president and vice president] from both major parties that will be credible and appealing."

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    Gans is director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate.

    Gans says, "In May or June next year, the public will make its judgment about the state of the economy. If the unemployment rate is at least a percentage point lower than it is now and moving in a downward direction, President Obama will likely be re-elected. If, however, the economy continues to stagnate or worse and there is either no progress on the employment front or it has gotten worse, there is almost no chance that Obama can win."

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