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The Politics of Parity and 'The Odd Man In'

This prediction has not yet come true: third-party candidates had little effect on the elections of 2004 and 2008. It is possible that former Virginia Republican Representative Virgil Goode, representing the Constitution Party, could deny Mitt Romney Virginia.

3) "More desperate actions in desperate times." “Bob Torricelli's I-can't-win-so-I-quit abandonment of the Senate race in New Jersey, James Jeffords' no-one-likes-me-so-I'm-going-to-take-the-Senate-from-them abandonment of the Republican Party -- these are harbingers. With everything up for grabs every election cycle, and every race critical, nobody can be expected to draw the line at anything. Expect more vote thievery, more contested elections, more stunts of the Torricelli-Jeffords genre, more dirty tricks, more outrageous lies and slurs, more of everything that the League of Women Voters would rather see less of.”

Mr. Kelly was right -- campaigns seem to get ever nastier: in 2010, an ad referred to California Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell as a “demon sheep.” Just last month, Republican Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Turzai boasted that his new voter ID law would help defeat President Obama by suppressing the inner city Democratic vote.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case means that campaigns will start earlier and voters will be bombarded with ads and emails from “independent” super PACs for months. Mr. Kelly concluded that the Age of Parity and Odd Candidates In “should be fun, in a grim sort of way.” He’s almost certainly right about that, too: The elections of the next decade probably won’t lack for entertainment value. The nation’s severe economic problems aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon, thus giving birth to another “Age of Anxiety.” When the voters are angry and evenly divided, we tend to see a lot of unorthodox candidates.