Third parties are standing by
Democrat Barack Obama is taking heat for suspicions that he's cheating toward the middle, or because he got more delegates than Hillary Clinton and probably will pick someone else as his running mate.
Some voters whose favorite candidate didn't win the nomination say they might sit out the presidential election, or even vote for Republican John McCain. Or they might support someone like Green Party nominee and former Democratic congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who had been the first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia.
McKinney lost her congressional re-election bid in 2006, after her shoving a capitol policeman received huge publicity.
As for the GOP, some grassroots Republicans don't appreciate things like McCain's less-than-hard-line stance on immigrants, and hint they may go fishing on election day. Or they might even vote for the Libertarian nominee, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, also of Georgia.
So-called third-party presidential candidates have never won an election. But they can cause serious heartburn for Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls.
That happened in 1992, when independent candidate H. Ross Perot got 18.9 percent. The first President Bush - George H. W. Bush - and his family blamed Perot's drain of votes with allowing Democrat Bill Clinton's 43 percent to top Bush's 37.4 percent.
In 2000, the Green Party candidacy of consumer activist Ralph Nader drew 2.7 percent nationally, and he got no electoral votes.
He got 1.6 percent in Florida - 97,488 votes, most of which probably otherwise would have gone to Democrat Al Gore. That was way more than the 537 votes by which a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Gore lost. Without Florida's 25 electoral votes, Republican George W. Bush would never have occupied the White House.
The most successful third-party candidacy was almost a century ago. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican president, did not seek re-election in 1908. But he became dissatisfied with the performance of his Republican successor, William Howard Taft.
Roosevelt tried to wrest the 1912 GOP nomination from Taft, but failed. So he formed his own Progressive Party - nicknamed the "Bull Moose Party" -- and actually outpolled Taft.
Roosevelt got 27.4 percent to Taft's 23.2 percent. But Democrat Woodrow Wilson, with 42 percent, won a huge majority of the electoral votes, and went to the White House.
(For whatever it's worth, McCain recently said the president whose policies he most admired was Teddy Roosevelt.)
For die-hard Democrats and Republicans, those third-party candidacies, plus voters disgruntled for various reasons, can be seen as a nuisance like former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal once described.
In 1961, Texas Christian University, with a losing record at the time, upset UT 6-0, dashing UT's unbeaten record and No. 1 ranking.
Royal compared TCU to "the cockroach. It's not so much what he gets into and carries away but what he falls into and messes up."
We'll get a chance once again in 2008 to see how much the third parties, or the disgruntled voters, mess up the election for Democrats and Republicans. Third-party candidates once again are unlikely to win, but their candidacies could help affect who does.
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Senator Chris Bell?
The former Democratic congressman, Houston city councilman, who ran second to Republican Gov. Rick Perry in the 2006 election, plans to run in a special Texas Senate election.
Republican Kyle Janek quit District 17, and probably will become a lobbyist. Gov. Perry set the special election for the remainder of Janek's term, until January of 2011, for Nov. 4 -- general election day.
However, since it is a special election, it will be disconnected from the impact of straight-ticket voting on the general election ballot. All candidates in the special election, regardless of party, will be listed on the same ballot. If no one gets a majority, there'll be a runoff between the top two - again, regardless of party.
The district leans Republican, but is trending in a Democratic direction. Three Houston Republicans already are in the race: Austen Furse, a businessman; Grant Harpold, a lawyer; and Joan Huffman, a lawyer and former judge.
The district takes in parts of southwestern Harris County and eastern Ft. Bend County, plus parts of four other counties along the Gulf Coast to Louisiana. Bell, an attorney and former journalist, represented a considerable portion of the district in Congress.