The five presidential elections of the 21st Century have established a clear pattern of close battles between evenly matched parties – a pattern charismatic candidates and billions in spending can’t seem to break. Republican nominees have all won similar popular vote percentages, ranging from 51% for George W. Bush in 2004, to 46% for both John McCain and Donald Trump. Democrats also draw similar support – between Obama’s 53% in 2008 and Hillary’s 48% last time.
What changes more significantly from election to election is the vote for minor party candidates, which soared to 6% in 2016, more than triple their combined percentage in 2008 and 2012. If Howard Schultz runs a third party campaign, and protest candidates draw a total of 7 million votes as they did last time, the incumbent President, with his solid base of support, is almost certain to benefit.