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Of Course An Independent Candidate Could Become President

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

In 2011, I authored a novel, From Three to Five ,in which a well-respected governor mounted an independent campaign for president of the United States. Could fiction become fact?


Howard Schultz is thinking about running as an independent candidate to become president of the United States. His candidacy should be taken seriously. A careful review of the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States explains why he would have a significant chance of becoming president.

And Joe Biden should consider a run as an independent too because his chances of winning the nomination of the Democratic Party in 2020 are about zero. One only needs to watch the other Democratic candidates to understand that they see Joe Biden as part of the far right. Imagine the 2020 Democratic Convention selecting Joe Biden if he did not win on the first ballot; yes, hard to imagine.

First to how Schultz or Biden should respond as to whether they should be able to participate as candidates in the election as they need to be ‘team players’: “I am a great team player if I am invited into the huddle. In reality, the Constitution of the United States presents a clear pathway to the presidency for me.”

If Biden or Schultz could win just a few states, the choice that the House of Representatives would face would be having Mike Pence as Acting President or one of them becoming President of the United States.

If no candidate wins a majority in the electoral college, the election of both the President and the Vice President is determined by Congress. In Congress, the President is selected by the House of Representatives and the Vice President is selected by the Senate. The House of Representatives selects from the three presidential candidates who earn the highest number of electoral votes and the Senate selects from the two vice presidential candidates who earn the highest number of electoral votes. The actual number of electoral votes is immaterial if no one wins a majority and the popular vote is equally irrelevant.


The Members of the House of Representatives do not vote as individual Members to determine the President. The House of Representatives votes by State. For a President of the United States to be elected by the House of Representatives, that individual must earn votes from a majority of all of the States, twenty-six states. California and North Dakota would each have a single vote. Until the House of Representatives selects one of the first three electoral vote recipients, the Vice President becomes the Acting President. There is no time limit and the inability of the House of Representatives to achieve a majority could, at least in theory, last the entire four years until the next presidential election.

The Senators each have a single vote in determining the Vice President of the United States.

Let us assume that President Trump and Vice President Pence are the Republican candidates, X and Y are the Democratic candidates and Schultz and Z run as independents. Let us further assume that Schultz and Z receive 25 electoral votes and neither major party candidate garners a majority of the electoral college. Unless there was a dramatic change in the Senate which has only one-third of its membership elected every two years, Vice President Pence would immediately become Vice President of the United States.

While Vice President Pence was elected Vice President in ten minutes in the Senate, Trump, X and Schultz would be the three candidates in the House of Representatives with no one in a position to immediately receive the votes of 26 states and for Trump and the Democratic candidate X, no obvious pathway to ever achieve that goal. Note, some states would have an equal number of Members from each the Republican and Democratic Parties and might never be able to agree how to cast their vote for President of the United States.


It would not be unreasonable to conclude that none of the three candidates in the House of Representatives would ever receive the necessary votes of 26 states. Therefore, Vice President Pence would be Acting President until 2024. Or, Schultz as the independent presidential candidate would be more acceptable to the House of Representatives (again, voting by state) than Vice President Pence as Acting President.

Would Schultz or Joe Biden have a realistic chance to become President of the United States as independent candidates? Absolutely.

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