May 7, 2016
For those that think a viable alternative to Clinton vs. Trump might emerge in the weeks ahead, here's a new version of the 270toWin interactive map that lets you game out those possibilities. Click or tap the map to get started!
Background: Democrats and Republicans have held a monopoly on the electoral map since 1968, when George Wallace won the popular vote in five southern states and amassed 46 electoral votes. While that probably won't change in 2016, the two major parties are on the cusp of nominating historically unpopular candidates as their standard-bearers. This has led to more talk than usual about alternatives.
With Donald Trump becoming the presumptive Republican nominee this past week, much of the current talk is around finding a conservative alternative. Bill Kristol, Editor of The Weekly Standard, has been pushing the Independent Republican idea. He recently met with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. (Needless to say, this strategy is not popular with Mr. Trump's supporters).
Given ballot access issues associated with an independent bid, another option mentioned is achieving this via a 3rd party. The Libertarian party is already on the ballot in most states, and is working toward being an option in all 50 states. The party holds its nominating convention Memorial Day weekend in Orlando. In 2012, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson received over 1.2 million votes (about 1% of the national total) as their nominee. Johnson is running for the party's nomination again in 2016. A big hurdle for the Libertarian nominee will be achieving the 15% national polling support needed to qualify for this fall's presidential debates.
However a Trump alternative emerges, the 'dream scenario' for those seeking that is one where none of the three candidates reaches the required 270 electoral votes. In that case, the election will be thrown into the House of Representatives, with each state delegation getting one vote. Since Republicans control most of these votes, the thinking is the majority will side with the Trump alternative.
That outcome is highly unlikely, as Trump and the 3rd party/independent would mostly be competing for the same subset of voters. This might actually increase the electoral vote count for Hillary Clinton. For it to have a remote shot at working, Clinton would need to be a weak nominee by Election Day and the Trump alternative would need to be someone that could focus on and win a couple blue states without significantly diluting the non-Clinton vote elsewhere.