Silver defends Friedman:

[W]hat if the unemployment rate were still 9 percent in February 2012, and Barack Obama’s approval rating were 39 percent, and Ms. Palin had just won the South Carolina primary and looked like the probable Republican nominee. You’re think you’re not going to see a number of rich-and-famous people exploring a third-party bid? Under such a scenario, the “right” independent candidate might even be the favorite to take the Presidency.

So the political climate could potentially be very favorable to a third-party candidate in 2012. Of how many cycles, since World War II, has that been true in the past?

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