Public attention has been shifting from the primaries and caucuses to a possible Republican convention battle that could produce a destructive internecine intra-war. A similar battle for the Democrats is less likely but not inconceivable.
But it may also produce third and even fourth party candidates for President in the fall. This is possible, if difficult, thereby favoring those endowed with much money and lots of connection. And the decision to go for it would have to be made by July.
This has happened before. In 1912, the Bull Moose candidate, former President Teddy Roosevelt, got 28 percent of the vote. In 1968, Alabama Governor George Wallace got almost 10 million votes and won the delegates in five deep southern states. In 1992, Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote, allowing Bill Clinton to become President.
Obviously, the would-be party candidates have a major role to play. Hillary Clinton, with her large delegate lead, seems the inevitable Democratic nominee unless an email bombshell should derail her. In the Republican field, the likely nominee will be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. That leaves the door open to strong third or even fourth party candidates.
Bernie Sanders would be a formidable third party candidate. He has beaten Hillary in almost half of the contests and his strong support among young people, leftists and the working class would likely follow him in the fall. Having raised over $100 million since January, he would have no problem funding his campaign. Sanders has both the qualifications, as a long-term Senator, and the urgency, since he'll be 78 years old in 2020. Even a failed race would advance his dearly-held socialist program.
If Donald Trump loses at the convention, he has everything needed for a strong third party candidacy. He has lots of money (over $4 billion) strong name recognition, and a passionate base among angry working-class, small-town voters and many small business owners.
If the loser in the Republican race is Ted Cruz, even he could mount an unlikely, but possible, third party candidacy. At age 44 there is no urgency for him to do so, but with significant support from evangelicals and conservative Republicans, he could make a credible race.
John Kasich might even be persuaded to run. In early one-on-one matchups with Hillary Clinton, he is the only Republican who consistently beats her. The Republican establishment could provide the money and connections to give a moderate Republican a fair chance in November. But his inability to win anywhere beyond Ohio might lessen the likelihood he try it.
If the field multiplies past the usual two-person race, Michael Bloomberg might take a second look at throwing his hat into the ring. He has the money ($42 billion) and unparalleled experience as a highly successful businessman and three-term Mayor of New York. He would have strong appeal to middle of the road moderates in both parties. For Bloomberg, at age 73, it really is now or never--and he might have a shot at victory in a crowded field.
The only current candidate not even thinking about a possible third party independent race is Hillary Clinton. If she has just lost her second race for the Democratic Presidential nomination in eight years, it would be surely highly unlikely that she would run as an independent.
All this means a possible spectacular free-for-all with three or four serious candidates for the presidency. The potential field includes everyone from the progressive left (Sanders), moderate left (Clinton) and moderate center (Bloomberg) to the Republican centrist (Kasich) and Republican conservative rightists (Trump or Cruz). It would dwarf the already likely fracas at the Republican convention. The ultimate arbiter in deciding our next President could be the U.S. House of Representatives!
While it may be difficult for a serious third party candidate to make a run, little seems impossible in this crazy election year.