When Americans Elect began its efforts, organizers believed that gaining ballot access in all 50 states would be their biggest challenge. As it turned out, the signature-gathering process, the parameters of which are unique to each state, was indeed as onerous and costly as they imagined it would be.
But in the end, the piece of the puzzle that the group initially assumed would fall into place relatively neatly -- attracting a candidate who could actually win the race -- proved the most unworkable element of the entire enterprise.
“We had the money and the people to achieve 50-state ballot access,” said Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd. “But of all the people we briefed on this idea who would’ve been credible candidates, to a person they all decided not to do it. And I guess that attests to their sanity because they knew that they were going to be in a brawl with the two parties, especially if they got serious and got some traction.”
The organization’s fizzle came four years after a similarly minded organization, Unity08, failed to gain much interest and also collapsed.
There is a key reason, it turns out, why the last viable third-party presidential candidate was Ross Perot in 1992: He was a self-starting billionaire. In other words, the candidate came first and the organization followed. And on the presidential level, it appears that’s the way it has to be.