A third candidate who could siphon off just a handful of electoral votes would be enough to deny Trump or Clinton the White House. (PHOTO DESK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
By MICHAEL LEVIN
It's not a done deal — not by a long shot — that we'll wake up on Jan. 21, 2017, to a President Trump or a President Clinton.
We've never had two presumptive candidates so roundly disliked by so many.
And yet, we feel stuck with a choice that nobody wants, leading inevitably to a new President whom two-thirds of the country will hate on Day One.
So how does America avoid this mess?
The answer: A barely successful third party candidate.
Not one who could gain enough electoral votes to win the election outright.
But one who could siphon off a handful of electoral votes — just enough to deny Clinton and Trump the 270 electoral votes they need to win.
It's easier — and more likely — than you may think.
If that happens, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives.
Follow me closely on this one.
The rule to follow is found in the little-known 12th Amendment, adopted in 1804 in the wake of the Jefferson-Burr contest four years earlier.
Here's how it works.
Nobody gets 270 electoral votes? Then the House of Representatives chooses from the top three vote-getters — presumably Clinton, Trump and Somebody Else.
No one else may be considered — so says the 12th Amendment.
Furthermore, each state gets one vote.
If nobody gets a majority of states in the House by Inauguration Day, Joe Biden becomes President.
I'm not making this up. I couldn't make this up.
The Founding Fathers struggled with the best way to elect a President, and for better or worse, this is what they came up with.
So the question then arises: Could a third party candidate siphon off enough electoral votes to trigger this mad fantasy?
In fact, easily.
Let's assume, going forward, that Hillary wins the swing states of Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, and she keeps California and New York in the Democratic column, and Trump wins Florida.
Now let's say Mitt Romney runs.
He doesn't have to get on 50 state ballots — just Utah and maybe some red states in the South and West.
Let's say he wins just his native Utah.
And nothing else.
Mitt Romney carrying Utah?
Clinton would get 268 electoral votes. Trump, 264.
Romney would get a mere 6...but he would thus deny a majority to the two major parties.
Hello, House of Representatives!
What happens now?
Your guess is as good as anyone else's.
Don't want Romney?
Well, what if Bernie runs as a third party candidate?
All he has to do is carry four small states — or two small ones and one big one — and the election goes to the House.
Not feeling the Bern? Okay, how about Elizabeth Warren? John Kerry? Joltin' Joe Biden?
Mike Bloomberg could jump in and steal states from Clinton and Trump.
So could Ellen deGeneres.
Hell, my cat Roxanne could jump in and get at least a handful of states.
Cats are very popular on YouTube.
More people like cats than like Hillary and Donald.
In industry after industry, when the demise of traditional monopolies suddenly occurs — whether it's Uber killing taxi companies or Amazon destroying everything else — people always say, "I never dreamt it would happen to us!"
There's no law saying that the Democratic and Republican parties, which have enjoyed a Coke/Pepsi-like hammerlock on electoral politics since Hector was a pup, will go on forever.
People don't like politicians. Or, it turns out, political parties. That's the message of 2016.
So no matter what you do for a living, if you're thinking about what to do with your summer vacation, my suggestion is simple.
Run for President.
You never know. You just might win.