With the American political system in turmoil right now, and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders getting most of the attention, and Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, the so called “Establishment” candidates getting heavy criticism from within and outside their party structures, one has to wonder if it is possible we might have a four way race for President, with any result possible!
Certainly, either the Republican or the Democratic nominee would win the election, but it might lead to a situation where that winning nominee only gets as low as Abraham Lincoln gained in 1806 (39.5 percent) or as Woodrow Wilson gained in 1912 (42 percent) of the entire vote. Or the winner could gain as much as Harry Truman gained in 1948 (49.5 percent).
It all depends on how strong the third and fourth party candidates would be, with all four candidates in 1860 gaining double digit support; three of the four candidates in 1912 gaining double digit support; and only the two major party candidates in 1948 gaining double digit support.
Right now, if Donald Trump rain as a third party candidate, it would seem he would gain double digit support, while if Bernie Sanders ran, it seems more likely that he would gain medium single digit support.
The 1948 situation, where the third and fourth party candidates only gained about two percent each of the popular vote seems unlikely, but even in that year, one of those candidates (Strom Thurmond) gained four states and the second highest number of electoral votes up to that time for a third party candidate
The 1912 situation, with two candidates having results in the 20s and the winner 42 percent seems more likely in 2016, with the fourth candidate gaining about the six percent that Socialist Eugene Debs gained in 1912, with Bernie Sanders likely that individual.
The 1860 situation, with all four candidates being double digit, and the winner being under 40 percent could also happen, but still the two major party candidates would win the bulk of the electoral votes, and one would win the Presidency.
With the likelihood that Hillary Clinton (the presumed Democratic nominee) will be able to keep the loyalty of a higher percentage of her party than Jeb Bush would have in the Republican Party; and with Donald Trump likely to gain more total public support than Bernie Sanders, we would have the result being Hillary Clinton winning, and the potential for Donald Trump to beat out Jeb Bush or some other Republican for second place in popular votes and electoral votes, making the 2016 GOP Presidential nominee only the second major party nominee (after William Howard Taft in 1912) to end up third rather than second in the final election results!