Third Parties: 2012 Election’s Critical Missing Piece

In the wake of the Iowa straw poll – a particularly charming incarnation of the poll tax– and the late entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the news media is telling us that that the 2012 presidential field is starting to congeal.

Except that it’s not. Not even close. Because we don’t yet know what will happen with third parties. In the end, third parties might very well impact the selection of the next President more than the outcome of the GOP primaries and caucuses that are dominating the news.

At a time when the American electrate is about evenly divided between the two major political parties, and huge numbers are turned off by both parties, this 2012 presidential election could hinge on which third party, or parties, emerges to relative prominence. If it’s a liberal-friendly third party ticket that dominates the third party space in 2012, Obama will almost certainly lose. If it’s a conservative-friendly third party dominating, Obama could still pull it out, despite the environmental mega-trends – lack of peace or prosperity — working against his reelection.

A third party ticket led by Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump or their ilk looms on the right, and a ticket led by Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders or their ilk looms on the left. I’m as interested in those melodramas as I am about the more high profile Perry, Bachmann, Romney scrum.

And beyond the third party machinations on the left and right fringes, keep your eyes on a new third party wild card this year – Americans Elect. Americans Elect looks like it will be a centrist party, and is being promoted by center-left voices like syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman. Here is how they explain themselves.
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Election Night Prep: Senate Curtain Raiser

While the Minnesota Senate race has generated a fair amount of visibility, Senate races overall have been mostly ignored across the nation as the presidential contest has sucked up nearly all of the oxygen in the room.  That’s too bad, because there’s an interesting macro story there as well as a number of fascinating local races worth watching.  As you settle in for a long evening of election viewing next Tuesday, here’s a quick snapshot of what to look for in these races and an overall story that will unfold all across the nation and may make it worth waiting up to see what happens in far-flung Alaska.

The Big Picture: The Democrats currently have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate.  That majority is about as thin as possible because it is achieved through the support of Joe Lieberman, Independent (and McCain supporter) of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont.

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