Should the Tea Party become a formal political party with an ability to field its own candidates?
I think if the Tea Party split from the Republican Party for the 2012 election and fielded their own presidential candidate, a three-way race might just give us a chance to witness an epic political circus. That would be the historically elusive tie-breaker election in the House.
The electoral college system essentially eliminates a third party's chances of winning the presidency because a majority of electoral votes are required, not just a plurality. When a party splits into two factions it typically just hands the election to the other party. However it is feasible that a third party run could sway the election such that none of the candidates won a majority of electoral votes. Then we would have to dig out the 12th Amendment for the rules of the tie-breaker election.
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one voteThat would be interesting to watch. California gets cancelled out by North Dakota. New York gets cancelled out by South Dakota. Texas gets cancelled out by Rhode Island. If you look at the House roster that will be in place if a tiebreaker happens in 2012, the clear advantage is for the Republicans. In 34 of 50 states, the Republicans have more representatives than the Democrats so if the votes were along party lines, the GOP would dominate the tiebreaker. The Dems have an advantage in 15 states and in one state there is a tie.
Now if it ever came to a tiebreaker election, then the GOP and the Tea Party might make a deal to unite their support behind one candidate in the tiebreaker. Its a long shot, but then who knows what can or can't happen in US politics anymore. The President might win a landslide of public votes and lead the electoral vote contest, but if he doesn't win a majority of electoral votes, then he becomes vulnerable in the tiebreaker.
And that would be a full-blown circus. Oh the humanity..