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Americans Elect: the third party’s latest death knell

at 12:49 PM ET, 05/15/2012

The United States is still not ready for a third party.

Americans Elect, the group that has spent the last two years securing ballot access for a yet-to-be-named middle ground presidential candidate, wound up running into a significant problem: Finding a candidate.

The group announced late Monday that no candidate has attained the level of support he or she would need to even be considered at the group’s online convention next month, and the deadline for candidates to qualify has passed. That leaves the group with ballot access in more than half the states — including many swing states — but no candidate to actually put on the ballot.


Buddy Roemer took more votes than anybody in the Americans Elect nominating process, and he was still well shy of qualifying for the convention. (Sarah L. Voisin — The Washington Post)

The group says it will meet Thursday to decide whether to press on.

“We’re talking to our delegates and board on Thursday, and we’re going to make a decision once we confer with them,” Americans Elect spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel told The Washington Post.

The episode is just the latest proof that, while many Americans say they want a third party or independent candidate, the institutional and motivational barriers are often too much to overcome.

To this point, the leading candidate, according to the group’s Web site, is Republican former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, who has accumulated nearly 6,000 supporters on the group’s Web site — well shy of the 10,000 he needed.

Only one other candidate — former Democratic Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson — has even 3,000 supporters.

The group began with a grand vision for citizens to take part of a lengthy and complicated nominating process; the organization would secure ballot access, and the people would pick the candidate.

“It’s really a matter of the candidates, we provided the platform the technology and ballot access, with bank security levels,” Wachtel said. “We don’t support candidates or run their campaigns.”

But there has been little noticeable enthusiasm for the group’s effort, as evidenced by the lack of big-name candidates filing. Roemer, for example, was an afterthought from the moment he entered the Republican presidential primary last year and, even if he attained the group’s nomination, isn’t seen as somebody who could have a major impact on the race.

The failure of the effort is notable because of its place in history. This is, after all, a time of historic unhappiness with Congress, and if there was ever an opening for such an effort, 2012 might have been the year to get it done.

Instead, it appears the third-party renaissance in American politics will continue to be put off.

Significant third-party and independent presidential candidacies throughout history have largely been relegated to wealthy candidates like Ross Perot, big names like Theodore Roosevelt or big-name candidates with built-in constituencies like George Wallace and Progressive Robert La Follette in 1924.

Starting with a cause rather than a candidate, it turns out, complicates an already arduous process.

Krissah Thompson contributed to this report.

 
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