Is this the year the third-party candidate breaks through?

There's a Lot in the Way of a Third Party Winning the White House

This year there's been a lot of hype around the Libertarian party and its newly-minted nominee Gary Johnson as some key indicators suggest he could have a bigger impact on the election than third-party candidates have recently.

The Democrats' and Republicans' two front-runners have historically low favorability ratings. Johnson has recently been polling around 10 percent, a larger percentage of Americans than usual has said they would like to see a third-party candidate.

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Gary Johnson through the years
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Is this the year the third-party candidate breaks through?
UNITED STATES - MARCH 3: Gov. Gary Johnson, former Governor of NM, speaks at the American Conservative Union's CPAC conference at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson pretends to have a heart attack on stage while arguing in favor of legalization of marijuana during CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015. Former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y., not pictured, had just argued during their debate that marijuana caused an increased risk of heart attacks. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 22: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson speaks in the Fox News/Google GOP Debate at the Orange County Convention Center on September 22, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. The debate featured the nine Republican candidates two days before the Florida straw poll. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

That has a lot of Libertarians pretty excited, and while Johnson has a chance to change the outcome of the race, the deck is pretty stacked against third party candidates winning the White House.

Financially, the Libertarians are not even in the same league as the other candidates. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have raised and spent millions of dollars. Gary Johnson's net contributions on his FEC filing from the last period were just $293,125.

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He has $14,924 on hand, compared to Trump's $2.4 million, Clinton's $30.2 million and Sanders' $5.8 million.

The other challenge will be getting on the ballot. Third parties don't have the nationwide organizing infrastructure the Democrats and Republicans have to help collect the signatures needed to appear on the ballot in each state.

Even if Johnson or another third party candidate does do well, throughout history, even successful third party runs just took votes from one of the main parties.

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In 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt created the Bull Moose Party, he ended up getting about 30 percent of the vote, which ended up splitting the Republican vote and pushing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the election. Ross Perot's independent run in 1992 is often pointed to as a reason George H.W. Bush wasn't re-elected.

Libertarians understand their chances are low, but anything that gets their party and their ideas more exposure is a win in their books.

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Books authored by 2016 presidential candidates
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