WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have captured the limelight in the race for the US presidency, but they are not the only ones running: 12 forgotten candidates are also chasing the keys to the White House.
Without the million-dollar war chests or national organizations to compete with the major parties, none of the other hopefuls have a chance of victory on election day, November 4.
But still, the libertarian candidate Bob Barr, independent Ralph Nader and, to a lesser extent, Chuck Baldwin's Constitution Party and Green candidate Cynthia McKinney, could have a significant impact on the hopes of McCain or Obama, who remain locked in tight races in key battleground states.
For anyone who remembers Nader's bid in 2000, and the effect it had on Democrat Al Gore's chances of beating George W. Bush, the possibility of such an upset is tangible.
In 2000, Nader won almost three million votes nationwide. Gore, who won the national popular vote by almost half a million votes, lost to Bush in critical state of Florida by just 537 votes.
Standing as a Green party candidate then, Nader snapped up some 97,000 votes in the Sunshine State.
According to independent analysis website RealClearPolitics (RCP), which accumulates multiple polling data, Nader is holding 2.5 percent support nationwide. Barr enjoys 1.3 percent support, and the other candidates all average below one percent support.
Barr, a Georgia congressman from 1995 to 2003, is a candidate with strong conservative credentials. He vocally supported impeachment against former president Bill Clinton in 1998.
But as a committed supporter of individual liberties, Barr has split with Republicans in recent years over a host of Bush administration's measures, such as the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law introduced in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks that, critics say, quashed individual freedoms.
Barr is competing in at least 45 states, including the key states Ohio and Nevada that are crucial for the major parties to win.
In Georgia, a traditionally Republican state coveted by Democrats this year, Barr could play a decisive role.
"Barr conceivably could be to John McCain what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore in 2000: ruinous," wrote conservative columnist George Will in Newsweek magazine.
Barr is himself competing with Chuck Baldwin, another former Republican, who is running as a candidate for the Constitution Party, which has an election manifesto very similar to the Libertarian's. Baldwin is standing in at least 37 states.
Consumer advocate Nader, 74, is undertaking his fifth bid for the White House, this time as an independent candidate, and will be on the ballot in at least 46 states.
But unlike 2000, Nader has been virtually ignored by the media in 2008 -- in no small part because Obama has generated so much enthusiasm with left-leaning voters.
Like the Democrats, the Green Party also has an African-American candidate in Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia congresswoman from 1993 to 2003.
McKinney will be on the ballot in 32 states, and could possibly peel off voters from Obama in key states due to her support among women, blacks and anti-war advocates.
"Obama cannot take the peace vote for granted. There are peace candidates running from across the political spectrum," said Kevin Zeese, executive director of anti-war group Voters for Peace.
At least three of the others who have thrown their hats into the ring are standing under a Socialist ticket, including Gloria La Riva who is the candidate for a pro-Castro party defending the interests of Cuba.
There is little chance any of these candidates will celebrate with a champagne toast on November 4.
And the odds are truly against pastor Gene Amondson, running for the presidency with the most unlikely party to seek office in a country on the brink of total financial collapse: the Prohibition Party.
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