"There's no reason to assume Ventura's trajectory is a normal one for independents in Minnesota," said Schier.
Independent candidates in the last two gubernatorial elections failed to gain traction with voters. In 2006, Peter Hutchinson barely won 6 percent against Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democrat Mike Hatch. And in 2002, Tim Penny, who made a strong showing early in the race against Pawlenty and Democrat Roger Moe, collapsed at the end, only snagging 16 percent of the vote.
"The only precedent is there's no precedent," said Horner spokesman Lewis. The Horner campaign believes they will convince voters that they are a viable alternative to Dayton and Emmer if they can reach the mid-20s in the polls by election day.
That will be no small feat in a state where large numbers of voters remain undecided and many are nervous about throwing away their vote to a third party candidate, experts say.
Skeptics of Horner's chances say it will be more interesting to see from which opponent he draws more votes.
Both Dayton and Emmer have been attacking Horner in recent weeks, and so far there is no clear indication of who his campaign is hurting more. Dayton leads with 38 percent to Emmer's 27 percent, according to the most recent Minnesota Public Radio-Humphrey Institute poll.
Minnesota is one of two states where the independent candidate for governor has been surging in the polls this year. Former Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is building momentum to become his state's first independent governor.
Independents Tim Cahill of Massachusetts and former Democrat Eliot Cutler of Maine are also making gubernatorial bids, but at this point, are also-rans.