Third-Party Candidates Face Lonely Campaigns

Shut out of debates and mostly ignored by the press


Forty-eight hours before the first polls close on Election Day 2012, four longshot presidential candidates held one of the final debates of the political season less than two miles from the White House.

Little about this debate resembled the three showdowns between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in October. The setting was a cramped back room of a restaurant-bookstore, not a cavernous college campus arena. Candidates debated beneath portraits of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., not the Declaration of Independence and a giant eagle. The host was a prominent former third-party candidate, not a broadcast journalist. The debate covered global warming, the minimum wage and Washington, D.C., voting rights, issues that weren't touched in the major-party candidates' debates. Candidates were able to ask each other pointed questions, which was expressly prohibited in the Obama-Romney debates.