5 Independent Presidents Who Won in U.S. History

Why It's So Difficult for Third Party Candidates to Win

H. Ross Perot
The billionaire Texan Ross Perot won a startling 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election.

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If you think launching an independent presidential campaign is a fool's errand—the chances of winning are infinitesimal—consider the impact Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and others like them have had on the electoral process. 

Ross Perot

The billionaire Texan Ross Perot won a startling 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election in what many believed was the beginning of a third party in American politics. Democrat Bill Clinton won the election and unseated Republican incumbent President George H.W. Bush, a rare defeat in American politics. Perot also won 6 percent of the popular vote in the 2006 election.

Ralph Nader

The consumer and environmental advocate Ralph Nader won nearly 3 percent of the popular vote in the close 2000 presidential election. Many observers, primarily Democrats, blame Nader for costing Vice President Al Gore the election against Republican nominee George W. Bush

John B. Anderson

Anderson's name is one few Americans remember. But he won nearly 7 percent of the popular vote in the 1980 presidential election won by Republican Ronald Reagan, who pushed Democrat Jimmy Carter out of the White House after one term. Many people blamed Anderson for Carter's loss.

George Wallace

In 1968 Wallace won 14 percent of the popular vote. Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey in that election, but Wallace's showing was impressive for an American Independent. 

Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt won more than 27 percent of the vote in 1912 when he ran as a progressive candidate. He didn't win. But carrying a quarter of the vote is impressive, especially when you consider the Republican nominee, William Howard Taft, carried only 23 percent. Democrat Woodrow Wilson won with 42 percent of the vote. 

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Murse, Tom. "5 Independent Presidents Who Won in U.S. History." ThoughtCo, Dec. 21, 2020, thoughtco.com/most-successful-independent-presidential-candidates-3367561. Murse, Tom. (2020, December 21). 5 Independent Presidents Who Won in U.S. History. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/most-successful-independent-presidential-candidates-3367561 Murse, Tom. "5 Independent Presidents Who Won in U.S. History." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/most-successful-independent-presidential-candidates-3367561 (accessed January 27, 2021).