Just a reminder: A third-party candidate can't get elected

Which states could a third-party candidate conceivably win next year? Political handicappers assembled by USA Today ranked Barack Obama as a sure winner in strongly Democratic states with 196 electoral votes, and the GOP nominee a can’t-lose proposition in Republican-leaning states with 191 electoral votes. This leaves 11 states as battlegrounds, for a total of 151 electoral votes. Even if some Americans Elect bipartisan type were to slip in between the polarized and competitive parties to win a few or even all of the up-for-grabs battleground states, he or she would fall far short of the 270 needed for election.

And in the solidly Democratic states, no middle-of-the-road independent candidate will deny Barack Obama his victory, just as any third-party effort to steal one of the sure-thing anti-Obama states will gain no traction.

Even the most optimistic third-party dreamers acknowledge the near absolute impossibility of any candidate other than a Republican or a Democrat winning an outright majority of electoral votes. What these independent activists hope to achieve is carrying just enough states—5? 10?—to deny either of their rivals the 270 electors needed for victory and to force the decision into the House of Representatives, as described in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. At that point, the third-party advocates argue that surging public demand for a fresh start in Washington, evidenced by a strong showing in the popular vote, could force the members of the House to pick their unencumbered candidate over the tired, hyperpartisan alternatives.

This foolish fantasy ignores an obvious but inconvenient truth: every one of the members of the House who’ll make this decision was elected either as a Republican or Democrat and will feel the most extreme reluctance, intensified by massive partisan pressure, to abandon his party when needed most.