How could a Third Party candidate affect Barack Obama's chances at the polls?

Repeatedly in U.S. history, maverick contenders such as Virgil Goode have unintentionally handed the White House to the underdog. Could it happen again?

Marine One takes off from the White House lawn

What if Barack Obama’s poll numbers begin to lag? What if prominent black preachers or key Jewish leaders announce they cannot support him? What if it appears Obama is losing key swing states?

Will the President’s strategists began looking to conservatives to keep him in the White House?

Absurd? Well, don’t be so sure. Dissatisfied conservatives may be Obama’s magic bullet. In 1992, Ross Perot siphoned off enough conservative support for George H.W. Bush to put Bill Clinton over the top. Of 103,758,177 votes cast, 58,848,371 or 57 percent, went to Bush and Perot – compared to Clinton’s  44,909,806, a mere 43 percent. But Clinton won the White House.

H. Ross Perot

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Why? The conservatives were divided with 39,104,550 for Bush and 19,743,821 for Perot. So, Clinton took the oath on Inauguration Day.

In 1996, Perot handed Clinton a second term. Had Perot supporters voted for Republican challenger Robert Dole, Clinton would have been defeated. He would have won the popular vote by the narrowest of margins,  47,401,185 to 47,282,763, but Dole would have won several key states’ electoral votes, such as Texas, to win 310 to 228 in the Electoral College, sending Clinton home to Arkansas.

Four years later, it was Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, who lost to a third-party candidate, this time liberal Ralph Nader. Gore won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College. Had Nader supporters voted for Gore, the vice president would have won Florida and New Hampshire – and the presidency.

Ralph Nader

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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