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Turning into the Twenty-First Century

At the end of the twentieth century, the independents came out in force and entered the presidential race. H. Ross Perot became a major national candidate subscribing to no party in the 1992 and 1996 elections. He garnered almost 20% of the vote, helping Bill Clinton take the White House from an incumbent. Perot did worse in 1996.

Independents then nominated Ralph Nader to run in the 2000 election, which some say may have thrown the election this time to the junior President Bush. This year, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) could have the same spoiler effect—but for whom would he spoil the election? It’s not sure yet, but it could do more harm to Republicans (since the congressman is of that party) than the president.

Independent voters have continuously played a crucial role, especially in the primary system. Their premier moment in recent political history is in 2008. Four years before that, they were basically evenly split between Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and President George W. Bush, but tilted in favor of the incumbent. In 2008, they made the Electoral College landslide for the Democrats; independent voters chose then-Senator Obama (D-IL) over Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in battleground states: Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and more.

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