|Robert La Follette|
Abe Lincoln was a Republican which at the time was a third party.George Wallace was a Democrat who before he became a segregationist, won the endorsement of the NAACP in his first run at major office. Robert La Follette, a Republican founded one of the Progressive Parties, Henry Wallace, a Democrat, ran for president as a member of that Progressive Party.
Strom Thurmond who was a Democratic Senator for 48 years, was a segregationist and ran as a member of the States Rights Party. John Anderson, a republican, ran in the National Unity Party.
Ron Paul, before running as a Republican, ran as a member of the Libertarian party. Ross Perot a wealthy businessman ran as an Independent. Pat Buchanan, a Republican, ran as a member of the Reform Party after denouncing the Republican Party as the identical twin to the Democrats. Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, ran for the Green Party. Many believe the votes he garnered cost Al Gore the election. I should probably not leave out one other famous third party candidates, union leader, Eugene Debs who ran for the Socialist Party.
Yes, there have been other candidates on the presidential ballot, but few achieved the notoriety that these men have as true third party candidates. Most notable for several of them is that they denounced their party or joined their party with another party. There is right now another "spoiler" on the ballot this year. Independent and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. In close elections, the third party candidate can sway an election. Ralph Nader had nearly three million votes. Ross Perot captured nearly 19 million votes. The closer the election, the more impact they may have.
A few Republican states have even tried keep Gary Johnson off the ballot by trying to prevent the spoiler effect. When Nader ran, he captured 100,000 votes in Florida. Gore lost Florida by 537 votes and the electoral college. Ross Perot, a conservative Independent, probably prevented George H. W. Bush from beating Bill Clinton. Bush lost to Clinton by about six million votes.
The campaign becomes more and more interesting. Even a minor candidate who is on one or two states ballots can influence the election. For example Virgil Goode is on the ballot in several states, but most importantly he is on the ballot in his home state of Virginia where he was a six term congressman. As a conservative member of the Constitution Party, he could easily take votes from Romney.
For Obama there is Jill Stein, this year's Green Party candidate. While Ms. Stein is not as famous as her predecessor Ralph Nader, in a close election, she could still take votes. Spoilers are an interesting group that even though they will not win, can affect the outcome of the election and because of this they can also get many of their beliefs into the mainstream of politics. After all, Lincoln was the third party candidate. There is currently no member of the Whigs running, but before Lincoln, they were the other party.
P.S. I did not forget this guy who also ran as a Progressive Party candidate, also called the Bull Moose Party at the time. He though was president twice.
Want to see how you line up with the candidates, try the Candidate Positions Quiz. It might surprise you. It is at http://www.isidewith.com/.