I always vote for the candidate I believe is best qualified to do the job. If this is an Independent or third-party candidate, I do not consider it a wasted vote. It would be wasted if I voted for any other candidate. Only once since 1960, did this philosophy change the outcome of the presidential election.
In 1960 John F. Kennedy won the popular and Electoral College vote. West Virginia Senator Harry Byrd was not a candidate yet he received 15 electoral votes when 14 undeclared electors from Kentucky and one from Oklahoma would not cast their votes for Kennedy. These 14 electoral votes for Byrd had no impact on the outcome of the election. There were also three other candidates, but their votes were negligible.
In 1964, President Johnson overwhelmed Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. While there were five other parties with candidates in the election, none received more than 45,000 votes.
The 1968 election saw the birth of the American Independent Party and the start of the South’s realignment. Alabama Governor George Wallace, known for his staunch segregationist position captured 13.5% of the popular vote and 46 electoral votes from five Southern states. However, Wallace’s totals were not enough to impact the outcome. Even if Democrat Hubert Humphrey had won the five states, the 46 electoral votes would have given him only 237. Nixon was elected president with 301 electoral votes
In 1972 President Nixon defeated South Dakota Senator George McGovern 520 electoral votes to 17. Four other parties ran candidates and while American Independent Party candidate John Schmitz received 1.1 million votes, the outcome was never in doubt.
The 1976 election saw the only incumbent president never elected to either the presidency or vice-presidency run against a little known Democratic Governor from Georgia. Seven other parties fielded a candidate along with one Independent. None of those candidates received enough votes in any state to impact the election of Jimmy Carter.
Given President Carter’s poor approval rating, 1980 saw Republican Ronald Reagan handily defeat the incumbent president winning 51% of the popular vote and 489 electoral votes. Even though Illinois Senator John Anderson running as an Independent captured 6.6% of the popular vote, he and four other candidates did not impact the final results.
There was no contest in 1984. President Reagan won 49 states. Neither Democrat Walter Mondale or the Libertarian Party candidate could affect this margin of victory.
In 1988, the Libertarian Party chose Texas Congressman Ron Paul as their candidate. However, Paul nor one other candidate; under 700,000 votes between them, prevented George H.W. Bush from being elected President.
The election of 1992 raised the question, could an Independent be elected president, when Texas businessman Ross Perot captivated America. At one point, Perot led both President Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton in the polls. In the end, Perot won just under 19% of the popular vote, but no electoral votes. Had Perot not run, about 30% of his votes would have most likely gone to Bush, adding 79 electoral votes, not enough to change the results.
Perot made another attempt in 1996 running as the Reform Party candidate. This time he only received 8% of the popular vote. Along with four other candidates, this had no impact on President Clinton’s re-election against Republican Bob Dole.
The presidential election in 2000 was by all accounts, the most controversial ever. There were five minor party candidates. Green Party candidate/ consumer advocate Ralph Nader, was on the ballot in 43 states plus the District of Columbia and received 2.7% of the popular vote. The election came down to Florida. Al Gore defeated George Bush in the popular vote overall, however, in Florida, Bush led Gore by a mere 537 votes. After the Supreme Court stopped the recount, Bush was awarded Florida’s electoral votes. This time, Ralph Nader proved to be the difference. According to exit polls, 38% of those who voted for Nader would have voted for Gore, had Nader not run. This would have given Gore just under a 13,000 vote win over Bush. Had Nader not run, Al Gore would have been elected president.
Compared to 2000, 2004 was relatively quiet. Six minor party candidates plus Ralph Nader, running as an Independent, had no impact on President Bush’s victory over Democrat John Kerry.
In 2008, Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama faced Republican Senator John McCain and four other candidates. The results were not impacted by the other candidates. This brings us to today.
Two candidates are known, President Obama and Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Americans Elect, an attempt to energize those frustrated with the current nomination process though the internet failed to nominate a candidate. I believe the question is; If Ron Paul does not get the Republican nomination through his strategy of delegate accumulation, as some believe will be the case, will he run as an Independent?
If he does, will he be another Ralph Nader? Could he win enough electoral votes to send the election of the next president to the House of Representatives? Or, will the historical trend hold true?