Americans Elect: A Presidential Campaign Without a Candidate

With no qualified candidates, Americans Elect suspends its online primary.

May 15, 2012, 11:26 AM

May 15, 2012 -- Americans Elect has built a secure online presidential nominating system and has secured a spot on the presidential general election ballot in most states. Now all it needs is a candidate.

The group, which dubbed itself the first and only way for voters to have a third option for president in November by nominating a candidate online, announced at midnight that "no candidate has reached the national support threshold required to enter the 'Americans Elect Online Convention.'"

The deadline was 11:59 p.m. Monday night, so the group has suspended its online primary.

The candidate who came closest was former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who ran in the GOP primary, but fell short of getting the minimum 10,000 "clicks" of support needed to meet the candidacy threshold (1,000 from 10 separate states).

"We don't write the rules but we are doing the best we can to live up to them," Roemer, 68, said. "We just have failed so far."

Roemer said he takes his failure "personally" and does not blame his lagging support on the Americans Elect process.

"It's new and it's got some obvious growing pains with it," Roemer said.

But no candidate's being able to meet the basic qualification was "maybe because no one is excited about any of these candidates. Maybe I have managed to excite no one."

While Americans Elect was unsuccessful in attracting a major candidate this year, it had far more success collecting petition signatures to gain nationwide ballot access. In order for an Americans Elect candidate to appear on the general election ballot, the group had to collect thousands of petition signatures in every state.

So far it has gained ballot access in 26 states, submitted the requisite number of signatures and is waiting for confirmation in eight states and is in the process of collecting signatures in three others.

Group spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel said that puts it on track to be on the ballot in every state come November.

"If this is a journey of 1,000 miles, you take as many steps as you can," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist who worked with Americans Elect to recruit candidates. "Proving that you can get 50-state ballot access is a tremendous achievement.

"Does it mean that Americans Elect is going to elect the president of the United States in 2012?" he added. "No."

But the group isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd noted in his midnight statement that "millions" of Americans still want "to see a credible candidate emerge from this process."

Byrd says his group's leaders will confer with its "community" and then determine its next steps. Results of that process will be announced Thursday.

Finding a credible candidate has proven a far greater challenge than the group's founders anticipated in part because the process is new, different and unprecedented, Sragow said.

For most of the 50 governors, Congress members, mayors and corporate CEOs with whom he spoke who were considering a bid for the Americans Elect ticket, Sragow said most were unwilling to buck their political party in order to run for Americans Elect.

"If you have invested your lifetime in politics as a Democrat or a Republican, you know very well that if you take the Americans Elect path or any similar path really there's no turning back," Sragow said. "You are going to face the reality that you will find yourself suddenly not welcome in your party."

Sragow said the group's founders also expected the Republican primary to end quickly, rather than drag on through the spring, giving Americans Elect time in the spotlight.

"There really wasn't a chance for a focus on Americans Elect because the focus was on the drama in the Republican Party," he said.

Even though Americans Elect did not attract a qualified candidate pool and thus was unable to use the online nominating process it has so carefully constructed, Sragow said he did not think the group had failed.

"I don't think it has gotten as far as certainly the key players within Americans Elect had hoped, but you have to look at it, I think, very realistically," he said. "Americans Elect is unquestionably the most ambitious political start-up in this country in decades. When a company succeeds and they are big and successful, you forget what they went through to get there."

Sragow and Roemer said they expect online presidential nominating conventions, such as the one Americans Elect created, will be the future of politics.

"This is new ground here," Roemer said, "and I predict it's ground that all of America will be involved in four years from now."

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