Sifting through our last national poll really makes me think the time is ripe for a third party to have some success.
Consider these findings:
-Independents are extremely fed up with both parties, giving Congressional Democrats a 61% disapproval rating and Congressional Republicans a 63% one.
-Beyond their general disapproval independents think both parties are too extreme ideologically. 50% think Congressional Republicans are too conservative and 49% think Congressional Democrats are too liberal compared to only 29% and 31% respectively who think those entities are 'about right.'
-The ideological unhappiness is not exclusive to independents. 20% of Democrats think that their party is too liberal and 20% of Republicans think that their party is too conservative.
Combine the Democrats and Republicans who think their party's too extreme with the independents who don't like anyone and you have a pretty significant swath of the electorate.
Of course there are a lot of reasons why a meaningful alternative won't emerge in 2012. For a third party to have any success it would really have to stand for something, and it's hard to say if being the great moderate alternative can get peopled fired up and rallied around the cause. I think it also needs to be bigger than a single politician's raging ambition- can a party really be built up around Michael Bloomberg's desire to be President?
The conditions are right for someone besides the Democrats and Republicans to get some traction. But there's a long way to go for that to happen.