A Reason-Rupe poll in August showed that 72 percent of voters would consider an alternate candidate; an American Pulse poll last month showed that 58 percent don't think that the two-party system represents their interests.
So, Americans Elect has drawn 2.1 million signatures, raised $22 million toward a $30 million goal and plans to be on ballots in all 50 states.
To what could it lead?
Who knows? Names popping up include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former N.J. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a member of the Americans Elect board. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, denied spots in GOP debates, says that he's running for the online nod.
Who could it hurt?
"It's so interesting," says Americans Elect press secretary Ileana Wachtel. "Opinions split down the middle: Some liberal media say it ruins Obama, some conservative media say it spoils it for Republicans."
There's no way to tell without a candidate. Although Ross Perot hurt Republican George H.W. Bush in '92, and Ralph Nader hurt Democrat Al Gore in 2000, a centrist, bipartisan ticket could hurt both parties.
Younger and independent-minded voters with no party loyalty could produce a ticket in a method that some suggest resembles "American Idol."
Can it really happen?
Americans Elect is now on ballots in 10 states, including Florida and Ohio, and efforts are under way in a dozen more, including Maryland.
The group's coming here next year, according to Wachtel, who notes that Pennsylvania election law doesn't allow nominating papers to be filed yet. But once a ticket is picked, Americans Elect has until Aug. 1 to collect roughly 20,540 signatures to make the state's general-election ballot.
Because Pennsylvania's unfriendly to independents, that's 10 times the requirement for Republican and Democratic presidential contenders, who need only 2,000 signatures.
An independent candidate needs a number equal to 2 percent of the votes given the highest statewide vote-getter in the preceding election - in this case, Superior Court Judge-elect David Wecht, with (still unofficially) 1,027,055 votes. The national effort is not without controversy, and raises lots of questions.
Its founding funder, billionaire Peter Ackerman, is a contributor to Republicans and Democrats, including Obama.
Ackerman's described as a leveraged-buyout tycoon who, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting's California Watch, was an associate of former "junk-bond king" Michael Milken in the '80s.
Ackerman ponied up $1.55 million to start Americans Elect, which has a large leadership list from business, law, academia and politics. He's the chairman. His son Elliot, a decorated Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is CEO.
Americans Elect is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, not a political party, so it doesn't have to reveal funding sources. But it has a "rules committee" to ensure that candidates are "verified and certified" and that the ticket is bipartisan.
I like the concept of people, not parties, picking candidates. And if it can be done online without fraud or hacking that nominates, say, a David Duke, it might work.
Or at least it might be a first step toward picking a president answerable to the American people rather than the partisan ideologies both parties currently represent.
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