TAMPA - Some call them courageous underdogs. Others call them spoilers. But third-party candidates, at least in modern history, are almost always losers. But that doesn't mean they can't affect the outcome of elections.
Ross Perot was the most successful third-party candidate in American history. Yet on election day 1992, he managed just 19 percent of the popular vote and won not a single state. Still, many say he took enough conservative votes away from George H. W. Bush that he handed the election to Bill Clinton.
"It's not that simple," says political science expert Susan MacManus of University of South Florida. She says it's hard to know who a third-party voter would have voted, if it were just a two-candidate race.
"Third-party voters tend to have a history of saying 'I don't like either of the two parties and that's why I'm not voting for one of their candidates'" said MacManus.
Still the debate simmers over whether Ralph Nader's Green Party candidacy in 2000 cost Al Gore Florida and the election. Nader got more than 90,000 votes. Gore lost by 537.
But the third party candidates this year are not nearly as well known as Ralph Nader or as wealthy as Ross Perot. Republicans fret that Libertarian Gary Johnson may siphon some conservative votes away. Green Party leader Jill Stein may do the same among Democrats. A ballot with 12 choices for president will also dilute the influence of any alternative candidate.
Congressman, Ron Paul is the one person with wealth, name recognition and a real following who could have mounted a credible third party run but he's not on the ballot.
But there is Roseanne Barr.
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