The strategy third parties should be using to become serious contenders
Let’s be honest. A third party candidate has a less than 1 percent chance of winning this election in 2016. Not because people do not want a third party, but because our system silences them. Whenever Jill Stein an Gary Johnson talk about winning, it makes me chuckle despite being a Jill Stein supporter. I would love to see Stein or Johnson win, but I know it will not happen. At least this year.
A third party candidate has not won a single electoral vote in any modern day election due to the winner-take-all system within the electoral college. Many argue that 2016 is the year for third party candidates to surge. I would revise that argument to 2016 is the year for third parties to become recognized for future elections.
Many are uncomfortable with a Clinton or Trump presidency. While this would make it logically coherent to assume that a third party candidate could do well under these circumstances, third parties have not played a big role in elections since Ross Perot in the 1992 and 1996 elections.
Right now I think the best idea for third parties is to strategize their campaign and use all their resources in one single state. For Gary Johnson, that state would most likely be Utah, since he is within single digits from Clinton and Trump, and Utah voters overall are not happy with Clinton or Trump. For Jill Stein, I think her single state would be Vermont. Vermont is the home of Bernie Sanders, therefore Vermont voters want to continue his revolution, and according to a recent poll nearly 40 percent of Vermont registered voters are undecided. This leaves plenty of room for a new candidate to emerge.
Since the third parties lack federal funding and lack funding in general, it is impossible to run a fifty state campaign with such limited resources. Gary Johnson would be a big threat in Utah, as many Utah voters are already siding with him and share a dislike of Trump and Clinton. Vermont is a small state that Jill Stein would be able to run a legitimate campaign in.
If Gary Johnson and/or Jill Stein would be able to win just one state during this election, it opens the door for voters to seriously consider future Libertarian and Green candidates in upcoming elections.
Over time with this strategy, both Libertarians and Greens could build up their maps, eventually making presidential elections look more like elections in other democracies; multiple candidates with lots of support.