Reform Party

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Founded by Ross Perot in 1995, the Reform Party grew out of a movement originally called UWSA (United We Stand America), which was a group organized and developed following Perot's 1992 election bid, in which he recieved nearly 20% of the popular vote and may well have tipped the election to Clinton.

In 1996 Perot again ran for president, this time as a Reform Party candidate, and garnered over 8 million votes, falling short of his performance in 1992 but still showing the relative strength of his Reform Party following. Because the party recieved over 5% of the vote, The Reform Party of the United States of America qualified for official party status, which they achieved in the fall of 1997.

In 1998 the Reform Party was again in the headlines as actor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura announced his run for the governorship of Minnesota, as a Reform Party candidate. Against all odds, Ventura won, in an election that boasted a turnout of over 60%.

Internal strife within the party in 1999 caused Ventura to later leave the Reform Party, and the ensuing chaos of leadership nearly tore the organization apart.

Determined to remain a national force, however, Reform was back again in 2000, with former Republican Pat Buchanan running on their ticket. Buchanan ran a visible campaign striking out against the shifting Republican party, and though he only recieved 449,225 votes in 2000, his presence in Florida specifically may have turned the election to Bush. Specifically, there has been some suspicion that confusing butterfly ballots in some Florida counties led voters to punch the ballot for Buchanan when they had intended to vote for Al Gore.

Infighting in the party during and after the 2000 election led to the party's near collapse, as some party members believed the Buchanan supporters and others such as supporters of the left-wing third party movement of Lenora Fulani and supporters of the Natural Law Party's perennial candidate John Hagelin, had all targeted the party for takeover. Jesse Ventura and the Minnesota chapter of the party left to become the Independence Party, which is active only in Minnesota. Buchanan's supporters left to form the short lived America First Party. Ross Perot himself washed his hands of the party and refused to lend his endorsement to 2000 nominee Buchanan.

By 2004 what was left of the Reform Party chose not to nominate their own candidate but to endorse the independent run of Ralph Nader. The bedfellows were certainly strange, but both had something the other wanted. For the Reform Party, they saw a chance to get back in the headlines and to foster another nationally recognized presidential candidate. For Nader, affiliating with the Reform Party allowed him ballot access in 15 states. Ideologically, the two were perhaps a less obvious fit, as Nader is far to the left of former Reform candidates, but they found common ground in such ideals as a balanced budget, an end to free trade agreements, true campaign finance reform, and an end to corporate power in Washington.

Resources: http://www.reformparty.org/

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