This year’s chaotic presidential features the two most disliked major party candidates in modern history, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Does their relative unpopularity create an opening for a third party or independent candidate in Idaho this November?
There is one semi-serious such candidate on the ballot and more may be forthcoming.
The Libertarian Party just chose their presidential candidate, former GOP New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. He is paired with another former Republican governor, William Weld, who won the party’s nomination for vice president.
There is some national polling numbers indicating this ticket may be drawing nearly 10% of the vote already. If they get to 15%, Johnson will be on the debate stage with Trump and Clinton this fall.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is pushing an independent run by attorney-writer David French. He writes for National Review and served in Iraq. Mitt Romney has reacted positively to the idea of a French candidacy.
There is also somewhat serious talk that Bernie Sanders himself might run as an independent if vanquished by Hillary Clinton.
Might Idaho be fertile ground for third party or independent candidates?
In 1992, quirky Ross Perot ran as an independent and took 27.05% of the Idaho vote, only narrowly trailing Bill Clinton by less than 2 percent.
In 1996, he saw his Idaho support cut more than in half but still took 12.7% of the Idaho electorate on the Reform party line.
Idaho also flirted with the candidacies of Bo Gritz in 1992 and John Anderson in 1980.
Gary Johnson may have the inside track as a fellow westerner. The Libertarian line has some credibility. And, his campaign HQ is located in Salt Lake City.
David French is an unknown. But, if Mitt Romney actively backs his candidacy that could have considerable sway in Idaho, particularly with Idaho’s Mormon population.
A Sanders candidacy would find favor with some Idaho Democrats given his overwhelming support during this year’s Democratic caucus.
Could any of them win in Idaho? That would be a shocking surprise. But, strong third party and/or independent runs may add some drama this year.