Minor parties play the wild card
The five presidential elections of the 21st Century have established a clear pattern of close battles between evenly matched parties — a pattern charismatic candidates and billions in spending can’t seem to break.
Republican nominees have all won similar popular vote percentages, ranging from 51 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, to 46 percent for both John McCain and Donald Trump.
Democrats draw similar support — between Obama’s 53 percent in 2008 and Hillary’s 48 percent last time.
What changes more significantly from election to election is the vote for minor party candidates, which soared to 6 percent in 2016, more than triple their combined percentage in 2008 and 2012. If Howard Schultz runs a third party campaign, and protest candidates draw a total of 7 million votes as they did last time, President Trump — with his solid base of support — is almost certain to benefit.