I know this sounds quite unlikely, however a thought occurred to me last night. Mike Bloomberg, the ultra-rich mayor of New York is considering running for president as an independent. There has been talk that anti-war maverick Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska would be his running mate.
Let's assume that neither Hillary Clinton nor Rudy Guliani are the nominee's of their respective parties. I think it is fair to imagine that Mike Bloomberg could carry New York. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, won re-election in California last year by a margin of nearly 20 points - 56% to 39% - and he is a keen supporter of Bloomberg. Could his support and Bloomberg's demeanor win him the Golden State as well?
Assuming no other movement, that would leave the electoral college at Republican 286 - Democratic 166 - Bloomberg 86. I wouldn't imagine it would be too difficult for Bloomberg to pick up neighbouring New Jersey (15) and possibly Pennsylvania (21) and Connecticut (7) from the Democrats as well. For fair measure, let's throw in Massachustes (12) where Bloomberg grew up and where, if Romney was the Republican candidate, the Democrats would probably not win with the 60+% they are used to, a large Democratic majority splitting to ways to Bloomberg and, to a lesser extent, Romney, it is not inconceivable to see Bloomberg win in a three way race with less than 40%.
That makes the college R286-B-141-D111. That's right, the Democrats in third place. Now, if Bloomberg were able to take 17 electoral votes from the Republicans - winning one of say Florida (27) or Ohio (20) or some combination of Virginia (13), Indiana (11), Arizona (10) or Nevada (5) - no one would have a majority of the electoral college vote. The result is not a Republican win, despite their huge plurality, it is an election in early January by the House of Representatives, choosing from the top three candidates. Presumably whichever party controlled a majority of states (each state gets one vote) would just choose their candidate regardless, especially if there had been a close popular vote. However, the Senate must choose between the top two vice presidential candidates, if the Democrats continue to control the Senate - as seems likely - would they not choose Hagel over the likely more conservative Republican nominee for vice president?
Could be a very interesting scenario where the ticket would be split by congress. Especially if the House choose a Democrat wherein the result would be the presidential candidate from the third place ticket would become president and the vice presidential candidate from the second place ticket would become vice president and no one from the first place ticket would win any office at all. Gotta love the possibilities in American politics!