Could the repulsive Tulsi Gabbard run for president as an independent or on a third party? She could. However, it probably won’t happen. Justin Amash, original Tea Party member of House and now an independent, might also run. However – and this is really important – if they run as independents and not as nominees of a major third party that has ballot access, they will be complete nonentities. Crickets. Hardly no one will even know they are running, because they almost certainly will be write-in candidates.
Ballot access for a third party means their presidential candidate appears on the ballot in a state. It’s a big deal.
The Green Party has ballot access in forty four states, write-in for three, and none in three. Putin Pal and former Green Party candidate Jill Stein thinks Tulsi would be a ducky candidate. (I’m still undecided if Stein is a operative or just an idiot, and say I that as one who was very involved in the Green Party once.) However, Green Party founder and long-time activist Howie Hawkins probably will be their nominee. Also, Hillary Clinton pretty much demolished any attempt by Gabbard to make a non-Democratic Party run.
The Libertarian Party has ballot access in all states, which is impressive. If Amash runs, this would probably be his choice. He’ll take votes from Trump, so that’s fine with me.
The far-right Constitution Party has ballot access in twenty four states, write-in for twenty two, and none in four. There are several big / battleground states where the Constitution Party does not have ballot access, so it essentially is a minor player at best in a presidential race. Even more odious coal baron Don Blankenship wants to be their candidate. Great. Let him. He’ll take votes from Trump too.
Running as an independent is really problematic. Every state has different rules for placement on the ballot. Most require a specified number of signatures. Battleground state Florida is particularly difficult. It wants signatures from 1% of registered voters, which in 2020 will be over 137,000. Just getting on the ballot in Florida as an independent would require a large investment of time and money. An independent candidate just doesn’t have those resources. And that’s just one state.
Write-in candidates do not appear on the ballots. However thirty three states require write-in candidates to file paperwork. So, even doing this requires serious resources.
Image and data from the excellent Balletopedia article.