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Few things are more quixotic than third party presidential runs. 

Since the Civil War, Republicans and Democrats have had a lock on America's two-party political system. Every few years, an independent candidate will rise to tease the imagination of the electorate, but always fall to the challenge of building a nationwide campaign organization from scratch.

Segregationist George Wallace was the most successful in modern times, winning 19 percent of the vote in 1968 and pulling off the rare feat of capturing 46 electoral votes and five states.

Billionaire Businessman Ross Perot picked up 19 percent of the vote in 1992 as an independent, and 8.4 percent in 1996, but won no electoral votes. Neither did former Congressman John Anderson, who gained 6.6 percent of the ballots in 1980.

The major party stranglehold seems unbreakable, and yet this presidential cycle, with Republicans and Democrats actively driving away their their moderates, feels ripe for a self-funded, centrist independent. A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll finds a third of the electorate open to a third party presidential contender. 

Americans are not as extreme as the political parties that represent them. The majority is either center right or center left. And yet Republicans and Democrats have abandoned the middle in favor of the extremes. 

Lots of Republicans didn't vote for President Donald Trump in 2016, finding him too crude and divisive. I doubt they've been persuaded otherwise by his performance in office.  

Instead or courting those disenfranchised GOP loyalists, Democrats are ignoring them, as well as those in their own base who stayed home in 2016 — or voted for Trump — because the party of Hillary Clinton made no room for them in its vaunted Big Tent. If you're a straight, white male voter, you aren't in the Democratic catalog of acceptable identity groups. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to enter the race and now that the Gropin' Joe videos are surfacing may never, had the potential for cross party appeal. But the reality of the Democratic primary process has him taking socialist dance lessons.

The 2020 election is shaping up as yet another request of voters to hold their noses and choose between the lesser of two evils.

Maybe the electorate is tiring of that two item menu. I believe voters could be courted to a third choice by a candidate with a big enough name and wallet to command attention.

I thought Michael Bloomberg, who's been both a Republican and a Democrat, might be the one. But he opted out of an independent bid.

Former Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz has a lesser name, but plenty of money — an estimated $3 billion. And while he's an old school liberal, he has the brains to declare Medicare for All unworkable and the Green New Deal unrealistic.

The Democratic Socialists hate him, and that should endear him to moderate Republicans. If he or others with similar resources believe in themselves enough to spend their own money assembling the best marketing and strategic teams, this could be the cycle to shuffle the political deck.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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