Convention would have it that one of the five remaining presidential candidates will be voted into the White House this November. But this is not your typical election. Pundits have thrown around buzzwords like "brokered convention" until they're blue in the face. Then there was the talk of Michael Bloomberg entering the race as a third-party candidate, which he says he won't do. But could he still? Could another candidate? Yes, a new candidate can still get in the presidential race — but not for long.
Plenty of people would like to see another option, but there probably won't be one. That's because even though it's still technically possible for an independent candidate to enter the race, it wouldn't be easy. They could still register for the ballot in all 50 states. The first state deadline is in Texas, and that's not until May 9, more than a month away.
That may sound easy, but it's not. Any potential candidate has to collect signatures ahead of the deadline in order to get on that state's ballot. Texas requires nearly 80,000 signatures. Plus, the candidate would need to have the money to hire signature collectors to even make the attempt. Special rules there make it even harder — people can't sign if they registered for the Democratic or Republican primary.
Not all states are this difficult, but any conservative-leaning candidate would want to be in the game in Texas. Some 37 states don't have deadlines until August or September. Anyone who chooses this route would not be a third-party candidate in every state. Some filing deadlines for parties have already passed, so they would be running just as an independent.
One of the people threatening a third-party run is Trump himself, but we're not likely to see that happen. He's well on his way to winning the GOP nomination, and he wouldn't be able to file as an independent candidate in 12 whole states before the Republican National Convention ends.
Then there's the challenge of winning an Electoral College majority. Since a third-party candidate would probably be trying to keep Trump (or maybe Cruz) out of office, their entrance in the race would make no sense. It could actually help the GOP nominee win. In Bloomberg's explanation for not running, he says that if three candidates ran, likely none would get a majority of the Electoral College, which would let Congress vote and decide (and the GOP controls both houses).
The conservative mainstream wouldn't want to risk that, though, because there's a chance a third-party candidate would cut into Trump or Cruz's percentage of the votes, but not the Democrats'. The last major third-party candidate was Ross Perot in 1992. He won about 19 percent of the popular vote, but none of the Electoral College. Bill Clinton went on to win the election.
The only other way we'd see a new candidate show up is at the conventions. The Democratic candidates are neck-in-neck, but there's no talk of brokered convention — especially since the party's superdelegates can help pick a winner. The Republicans, though, could see a real stalemate if Trump doesn't win more than 50 percent of their delegates. They could bring an outside "consensus" candidate in if they really wanted. Mitt Romney has even said that he would accept such a nomination. That's a long shot, but it has been a pretty crazy race.
It's not looking likely for newcomers, but only time will tell who's on the ballot in November.