Walter Dellinger emails about the possibility of a McCain third-party presidential run (should McCain fail to get the GOP nomination):
There is one final barrier to a third party candidacy, however, that may be dispositive. Even if you get over "Duverger's Law" about the tendency to vote for the top two, and the winner-take-all state-by-state character of the Electoral College, the real problem is the House of Representatives which will choose the President from among the top three in electoral votes unless one of the three candidates gets an absolute majority of all electoral votes. Thus, if each of the major party candidates can simply scrape together one-fourth of the total electoral votes, the election will be decided by the House, each state delegation casting a single vote with the votes of 26 state delegations necessary to a win. Regardless of how their district and states vote, there will be very strong party pressure on both Republican and Democratic members of Congress to cast a party vote. There will be no Independent party members in the House, making it virtually impossible for McCain to assemble 26 states even assuming he runs first by a significant margin.
I agree with you that in a three way race it is quite possible that John McCain could finish first in both the popular vote and the electoral vote. But that isn't enough. McCain would need 270 electoral votes -- an absolute majority. Otherwise, given the shape of the House in 2008, all the Republican candidate needs in a three way race is to finish third.
Hmmm. The only responses I can think of now are: 1) If McCain wins, say, 45% of electoral votes vs. 25 and 30, plus a similar plurality of the popular votes, there will be a lot of pressure on the House to pick him; and 2) Maybe his third party should also run some candidates for the House! But some readers may have a better answer. (Send them to Mickey underscore Kaus at msn dot com.)
P.S.: Dellinger's response to point (1):
Sure, I agree that at the outer margin (McCain 45, Dem 30, Republican 25) the House might crumble to popular McCain fever. But it would be tough to pull off such a landslide. One point for your argument -- Those numbers are percentages of electoral votes. If McCain actually got that percentage of popular votes--beating one major party candidate by 15% and the other by 20% (or anywhere close to that margin) he would very likely win an electoral vote landslide and avoid the House. Still, that is very, very tough. Much tougher than (merely) finishing first in the popular and electoral votes.
Doesn't mean he won't try!
But it doesn't mean he has a serious chance of winning either! And the idea of a McCain party winning any House seats in 2008 is borderline farcical. The barriers to third parties are even higher in Congressional races.