Group stirring independent WH bid hits obstacle

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By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A group clearing the path for an independent White House bid on Tuesday canceled the first phase of its search for a bipartisan ticket because declared and draft candidates aren't mustering enough preliminary support.

Americans Elect scrapped a virtual caucus that had been planned for next week. Another round of voting set for May 15 also is in jeopardy; a third is to be held on May 22. Candidates must meet a certain threshold of support to be eligible for the caucuses.

Ileana Wachtel, a spokeswoman for the group, says no one gathered enough online "clicks" to qualify. Candidates must show they have the backing of at least 1,000 people in at least 10 states. Some candidates must reach a threshold of 5,000 supporters in each of 10 states because they haven't held high enough office before under the Americans Elect bylaws.

"It is their responsibility to get the clicks," Wachtel said. "We are just merely the platform for them to run on."

Americans Elect, which in the eyes of the law isn't considered a third party, is noteworthy because it has plowed months and many dollars into securing ballot space in all 50 states and is more than halfway to its goal. Its rules require the nominee to field a bipartisan ticket.

Because Americans Elect isn't a political party, it doesn't have to file regular campaign disclosure reports with regulators. The one time it offered a glimpse through an IRS filing — in the fall of 2010 — the group reported raising more than $1.1 million and spending almost $1 million.

Organizers say the lack of party status gives them easier access to state ballots but also restricts them from advocating on behalf of any issue or candidate.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who has the second-most support among two dozen declared candidates, is still well shy of the number he'd need to move along.

Anderson said the group set its bar too high.

"It's incredible to me that they've worked so hard and spent so much money getting ballot access and yet they've set up the system that those with the greatest amount of support won't qualify for the first round of voting," Anderson said.

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer leads the pack of declared candidates but still hasn't qualified for the caucus process. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, is the leader among candidates supporters hope to draft; he has been dismissive of a third-party bid.

Americans Elect plans to decide a nominee in June after an online national convention. Delegates are permitted to vote only once and must provide certain data to ensure ballot integrity.

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