How many Independent candidates will the GOP primary yield?

The Republican Party’s presidential primary race may prove to be a breeding ground for third party and Independent presidential candidates in the 2012 election.  There are no less than four current contenders for the GOP’s presidential nomination who may run for president as a third party or Independent candidate:  Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Jon Huntsman and Buddy Roemer.  And, given the success of Americans Elect in its ongoing effort to obtain ballot access in all fifty states, we may see any number of these candidates square off once again to seek the upstart organization’s nomination for president next year.

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Buddy Roemer, a former member of the House of Representatives and governor of Louisiana, has already declared his intention to seek the Americans Elect nomination for president in their online primary next year.  “Today I officially announce that I will seek the Americans Elect nomination as a proud Republican but as an even prouder American,” said Roemer in a statement last week.  Roemer’s announcement was likely precipitated by the fact that he has been excluded from the Republican presidential primary debates and has yet to gain traction among GOP primary voters.

“The Republican Party has not allowed me in the debates. Perhaps they don’t like my message about the corrupting influence of money in politics. But, I believe the American people want to hear the message, so I’m going to seek the nomination of Americans Elect which appears eager to welcome diverse and controversial opinions that may upset the status quo,” said Roemer, who will now simultaneously campaign for the GOP nomination as well as that of Americans Elect.

Like Roemer, moderate Republican Jon Huntsman is also viewed as a possible contender for the Americans Elect nomination.  Though the former governor of Utah has not stated that he will seek the office of the presidency as a third party or Independent candidate, he has not decisively ruled out the possibility either.  Asked by The Boston Globe whether there is “any situation in which [he] would run for president as an independent,” Huntsman replied “I don’t think so,” which amounts to a non-denial in the mainstream media.

At least one leader within Americans Elect has come out in favor of Huntsman’s candidacy.  Former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman has publicly urged Huntsman to seek the organization’s nomination.  “I would hope he would do it, frankly. He’s someone that I would support,” said Whitman to Politico late last week.  Whitman serves on the board of directors for Americans Elect.

Whereas Roemer and Huntsman’s moderatism may account for their lack of appeal to many Republican primary voters, for Gary Johnson and Ron Paul it is likely their libertarianism.  Indeed, activists within the Libertarian Party are actively seeking to recruit Johnson, a former two-term governor of New Mexico, to be their party’s candidate for president in 2012.  Johnson has stated that he is “absolutely considering” taking them up on their offer.  Johnson has been excluded from nearly all of the Republican party’s presidential debates to date, which appears to be fueling his consideration of a Libertarian bid.

“I feel abandoned by the Republican Party . . . The Republican Party has left me by the wayside,”  Johnson said in a recent interview with The Santa Fe New Mexican.  “If I’d have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” he continued.

If he were to seek and win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, Johnson would be assured ballot access in all fifty states.

Last but not least, there is Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul.  Of the four candidates considered in the present column, the Texas Congressman and former Libertarian Party candidate for president  has the best chance of winning the GOP’s nomination for president.  As Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain – and now Newt Gingrich – have risen and fallen in the polls over the last six months, Paul’s campaign has slowly but steadily been building up steam ahead of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

Paul has not definitively ruled out the possibility of a third party or Independent bid for the presidency if he fails to obtain the GOP’s nomination.  If he were to seek, for example, the nomination of Americans Elect in their internet primary, Paul would likely be a force to be reckoned with due to his significant base of support across the country and its well-known ability to organize online.

Who would you like to see wage an Independent campaign for president in 2012?