Can an independent play spoiler in 2020?

FILE - In this March 22, 2017 file photo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in Seattle.

WASHINGTON (SBG) - We’re almost one year away from the Iowa caucuses, the first set of votes in the 2020 election.

That means candidates have to decide soon if they’re in or out.

They also face the challenge of whether they should take an even bigger leap and run as a third-party option.

Just ask Howard Schultz.

“DNC and the RNC have set up such high levels of restrictions and impediments to almost not allow an independent person to run for president,” he complained in a recent interview. “It's un-American.”

The former Starbucks CEO’s possible run scares some democrats who believe another option on the ballot, could peel off voters and accidentally make re-election for President Trump easier.

At a recent event, a protester yelled from the crowd, “Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical, billionaire a*****!"

“I'm certainly not going to do anything to put Donald Trump back in the oval office," Schultz has tried to assure potential voters.

It’s happened before. Ralph Nader’s third-party run in 2000 siphoned enough votes to possibly cost Al Gore Florida & therefore, the White House.

Ultimately though, those outside runs typically fall well short. Despite getting almost 19 percent of the vote, Ross Perot was a distant third in 1992. He got only 8 percent the next cycle.

And Pat Buchanan got less than 1 percent of the vote in his reform party run 4 years later.

Adjunct professor, Gary Nordlinger of George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management explained the difficulties, “You know how with Bill Clinton it was the Carville phrase: it’s the economy stupid and don’t forget health care? If you’re an independent candidate running for president, it’s the electoral college, stupid. You won’t be able to break it.”

Nevertheless, there’s a growing appetite for something different. People declaring themselves independent has gone up as public trust in government has been on a steady decline.

“It’s certainly been growing, over the years. If I took you back to the 1960’s, absolutely. You can see an absolute trend line.”

He added, “it’s not more and more independents. It’s less and less confidence in the democratic and republican party.”

Which may be tempting to others like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg or even to republicans considering a primary challenge to Trump, like former Ohio governor John Kasich.

A Gallup poll last year shows 42 percent of Americans identify as independents. That’s up 3 percent and part of the largest single year bump they’ve ever seen after a presidential election.

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