With speculation at fever pitch that the apparent change from "Republican" to "Conservative" on Sarah Palin's self-descriptive Facebook page might be a signal that she is contemplating a run, as either an Independent, or as the head of a third party.
If this did eventuate, and bearing in mind that Palin herself said she would not run as a third party candidate because, "that would ensure the re-election of President Obama" then the question arises, does a third party run give a realistic chance of winning the presidency in 2012?
The answer is, yes if the environment if right. If by November 2012 the economy is not better than now, or has turned down further, and if the GOP has selected Romney, then a three way vote split is quite possible.
This approximates the three party (Dem/Bull Moose/GOP) 1912 election. That election was prevented being thrown in the House because sitting President Taft only carried two states, but split the vote with Roosevelt 23% to 27% denying Roosevelt enough electoral votes to deny Wilson an outright win.
Whereas the scenario below, realistically for the scene 100 years later, shows the GOP candidate winning enough electoral votes to ensure no candidate had a majority.
Given a genuine conservative, like Palin, headed a mass movement third party run and the OWS split in the left was exacerbated to the point that the "Progressives" stayed home on election day, and the Tea Party turned out en-mass, then the map below (with the prospective third party states in beige) is a very possible result.
In this scenario President Obama would not have the 270 electoral college votes needed for outright victory. Under the constitution Romney, the presumptive GOP standard bearer, President Obama, and the third party candidate would, presuming no other candidate had any electoral college votes, (they would be eliminated from the balloting as only the top three go through for consideration) be the candidates the House would decide from.
Every state would have one vote based on the result of each states party representation. Thus, for example New York's one vote would go to Obama and Wyoming's one vote would go to e.g. Palin or whomever the conservative was. It would be presumed that the votes of the states that Romney had won would go to the conservative, if after the first ballot no candidate had a majority of states votes, and if the conservative was the second choice of voters as per the map below.
Given it would be unlikely that the GOP would lose control of the House in the 2012 elections and that, on the most recent analysis, the GOP would have a majority of the 50 states votes voting based on caucus outcomes when balloting.
This scenario played out before. In the election of 1824 Andrew Jackson finished first with more electoral votes than John Quincy Adams, William Crawford came third and Henry Clay fourth. With Clay eliminated he threw the support of his states to Adams, who was duly elected, based on the fact of his having the majority of states.
Interestingly the combined Adams/Clay popular vote was 43.9% to Jackson's 41.3% so in effect electoral justice was done. Similarly in the map below the combined non-Obama electoral vote is 278-eight above the minimum of 270, and thus electoral justice would also have been done 187 years later
All depends on the state of the economy in the winter of 2012, if there is indeed an independent, or third ( or fourth !) party challenge. If there is a double-dip recession and President Obama is below 40% in the polls, as he is now, then this scenario could very well play out.
The full constitutional scenario is set out below the map.
The constitution is very clear on the matter. Article 12 states, inter- alia:
"The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice."
Thus, if the no candidate with an electoral college majority scenario plays out, and presuming there are no other candidates who have won electoral votes, the House would meet to choose the next president by January 20th 2013, with the states having one vote each, whilst the Senate would meet to choose the Vice-President.
Based on the current composition of the House, and if voting went strictly on party lines, with no vote switching or abstentions in states with a close proportion of Republicans and Democrats, the Independent (or third party) candidate would be chosen on the first or second ballot.
According to information supplied by the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the current composition of the house by party is:
States with a Republican party majority of Representatives 31
States with a Democratic party majority of Representatives 18
States with an equal number of Representatives (Minnesota) 1
What can happen to cause a crisis, or give victory to the Democrats? If there are changes in swing states delegations due to a move back to the Dem's from the GOP's, perhaps, high watermark result in November 2010, the making of an Obama re-election, or constitutional crisis come into play.
The following states currently have a one or two member Republican majority:
Colorado 4 3
Nevada 2 1
West Virginia 2 1
New Hampshire * 2 0
Wisconsin * 5 3
Thus, if the Republicans lost their majority in these five states the delegation results would be; (*or they lost in three of the five and the other two became tied delegations and voted with the Democrats as might, most likely, tied Minnesota).
REPUBLICAN STATES 26
DEMOCRATIC STATES 24
If one further state went to the Democrats, and all politics is local so anything could happen, by the GOP losing one Representative in either Montana, or North or South Dakota, the House would be split 25/25 and a constitutional crisis of massive proportions would eventuate.
The "stolen election" of 1876 brought the country to the brink of civil war. The election of 2012 gives the possibility of a situation where, as in 1824, when no candidate had an electoral majority, the candidate with a significant minority of popular votes might be chosen by the House under heated circumstances.
This brings also the possibility of an inflamed racial environment, subsequent to a heated election campaign, over a long period of wheeling and dealing balloting to try and resolve the results of the election.
For all these reasons, especially if the economy is at the current level of unemployment-or worse, the election of 2012 is fraught with a terrible danger for the country.These dangers could be averted, or ameliorated if, well before the actual election, the constitutional possibilities are well canvassed with the public so they are aware of what might need to be done.
Otherwise, if by the first Monday following the second Wednesday in March 2013, as the constitution requires, there is no President, the Senate's choice of Vice-President will take over-to who knows what effect.