Thread: Third party
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Old 09-01-2019, 06:59 AM
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Chronos is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
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Nitpick: Instant-runoff voting is one form of ranked-choice, but it's not the only form. There are other forms that are better than IRV in every way but one: They're harder for the electorate to understand. Which is actually a pretty big deal, because a democracy depends upon the people trusting it, and you can't trust something you can't understand.

But back to the chances of a third-party candidate winning: You don't need to look at the popular vote total, because that's irrelevant. You need to look at what state or states the third-party candidate can win outright. In order to win, three things are necessary for a third-party candidate:
1: They need to win at least one electoral vote (which, aside from Nebraska, Maine, or faithless electors, means winning at least one state).
2: The two main candidates need to be evenly-enough split that the EVs the third party got are enough to deny both main candidates the majority (this becomes easier, the more EVs the third party got).
3: The House-by-state has to prefer the third party over both of the main candidates.

In 2016, Evan McMullin had a chance to pull this off. It was a very, very small chance (538 estimated it at about 1%), but he had a chance, and out of a history of 45 presidents, it wouldn't be too surprising for a 1% chance to come through once.

But McMullin had a couple of key advantages: One, he had very strong local support, in one or two states (Utah and maybe Idaho). And two, one of the major-party candidates was bad on an unprecedented level, leaving the possibility that establishment Republicans (i.e., those in the House) might prefer a more predictable conservative alternative to Trump. Now, though, there doesn't appear to be a local candidate emerging, and the Republican establishment have nearly all firmly embraced Trump. So even that 1% chance won't come up for anyone this cycle.