Since Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most disliked candidates to win their party’s nomination for president, third-party candidates Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and even Evan McMullin showed life in the polls. In the past, there have been other third-party candidates to get nationwide support, but none of them have come close to the success Alabama Governor George Wallace had in 1968. No third-party candidate has won a single electoral vote since he won 46 that year. Wallace still holds the title after the 2016 election.
Wallace ran as a member of the American Independent Party (AIP), which still exists. The party was founded in 1967 and nominated Wallace as its presidential candidate in the 1968 general election. The election came during a tumultuous time for the country, following the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Kennedy was assassinated during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Wallace was a segregationist and his conservative ideas made Republicans fear that he would split the vote. His policies earned him the support of many Southern states, so he picked up electoral votes from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. He also received a single vote from a North Carolina, although the remaining 12 electoral votes for that state went to Richard Nixon.
Nixon won the electoral college with 301 votes and won 43.4 percent of the popular vote, defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Wallace received 9.9 million votes, equating to 13.5 percent of the popular vote.
Although no third-party candidate has won a single electoral vote since Wallace, Independent Ross Perot took a bigger chunk of the popular vote in the 1992 election than Wallace did in 1968. In 1992, Perot earned 19.7 million votes, or 18.9 percent of the popular vote. That was the most for any third party candidate since 1912, when former President Theodore Roosevelt ran as a Progressive and won 27.4 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes.
In 2016, Independent Evan McMullin is looking like he could be the first third-party candidate to win a state since Wallace, even though he has less national name-recognition than Johnson or Stein. McMullin has proven popular in Utah, where a recent Deseret News poll has shown that he has more support there than Hillary Clinton and is only 5 points behind Donald Trump. McMullin is on the ballot in 11 states and qualified to be a write-in candidate in 31.
Coincidentally, McMullin’s goal to stop the major party candidates from reaching the necessary 270-electoral vote threshold is the same as Wallace’s goal in 1968. McMullin wants to force the presidency to be voted on by the House of Representatives. Wallace also didn’t think he would win the presidency in the general election, but wanted to win enough support that he would have a say in a House vote.
As stated in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, only the House has the power to vote on the presidency if there is an electoral college tie or if a candidate fails to earn a majority of the votes. The only time this ever happened was in 1824, when John Quincy Adams was elected over Andrew Jackson.