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Don't be fooled by third party scenarios as 2012 presidential race heats up

They’re political locusts, noisy and bothersome as they emerge like clockwork from their hidey holes. We’re talking “third partiers,” and they find presidential elections irresistible, so brace yourself, America. You are about to be swarmed by those much holier than thou.

Their four-year life cycle means third partiers disappear between elections, but, as usual, they are now climbing onto their soapboxes to declare that neither major-party candidate is acceptable to their refined tastes. They alone are looking for the last, best leader of the free world.

The rest of us, on the other hand, are zombies being hoodwinked by Democrats and Republicans, so third partiers are here to save us from our stupid selves. You know, like better angels and public-television scolds.

The noisy demand for other choices is a post-primary ritual, and the most predictable part is that the pols the elitists find acceptable all share one thing: They are unelectable. What a coincidence!

The Grand Worthies on the current list include former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, the retiring Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snow and, of course, the favorite of the field, Mayor Bloomberg.

None is actually running for president, and that seems to be the chief qualification.

They are not running because they can’t win, but in the haughty salons of third partiers, they are more desirable by virtue of being unstained by the verdict of voters.

The psychological tic is mutual to the extent that the pols on the sidelines have found a way to be mentioned as potential saviors, er, presidents, while joining the mentioners in turning up their noses at the current campaign. It’s a club whose members dismiss everything being said by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, while never quite stating what policies might 1) actually work and 2) gain public support.

It’s not surprising that their ranks include an overlap with those who admire China’s authoritarian leaders. Democracy is beneath the third-party crowd. They much prefer to appoint “experts” of their choosing.

Another Worthy on the list these days is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who did run in the Republican primaries. He dropped out after getting 2 percent of the popular vote, or was it 3 percent? His rejection was proof of his superiority.

Bloomberg reminds me of Huntsman, except he was too smart to run. He was very close in 2008, did lots of polling, researched state ballot laws and was willing to spend $1 billion of his own money.

His decision not to run is instructive: He saw no path to victory for a third-party candidate. Nobody’s idea of the patron saint of lost causes, Bloomberg looked beyond the considerable hurdles of the popular vote to that pesky matter of the Electoral College. He concluded that, for now, the two major parties have a lock on the outcome.

Consider the case of Ross Perot, who represents the recent high-water mark for independent campaigns. He got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 and zero electoral votes.

Moreover, the House of Representatives would break any Electoral College deadlock, so the nominee of the party that controls the House would likely become president.

The upshot of all these inconvenient truths is that those of us prepared to make a choice between Obama and Romney hold the high ground as well as the keys to victory. It is our civic duty to decide, and we will exercise it as best we know how.

Those waiting for perfection might remember that, for all its flaws, America’s two-party system evolved by popular choice and thus expresses the essence of democracy itself. As Churchill famously concluded in another time of doubt, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.”

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topic including the GSA scandal, click here

Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.