My boy, Dan Lee, has a nice paper coming out in PRQ.
"Anticipating Entry: Major Party Positioning and Third Party Threat"
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming
Abstract: Observers of U.S. elections have reason to believe that third parties are
not relevant political actors since they rarely win many votes or influence which major party wins an election. Researchers should use dependent variables besides vote choice and vote share to find third party effects that are a normal aspect of the American two-party system. A spatial model of elections motivates the hypothesis that a higher likelihood of third party entry induces greater major party candidate divergence. An empirical test that uses candidate positioning data in the 1996 U.S. House elections provides evidence of this third party effect.
So, here is the answer to the question, "Why run as a third party candidate?" We don't have to WIN to make a difference. And just the fact that a third party COULD enter conditions competition between the two state-sponsored parties.
The point is that when a reporter says, "But you can't win!", here's your answer. Opening the system to competition helps CITIZENS by making the big parties more responsive. And the article is fully peer-reviewed.
(Nod to Kevin Lewis)