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The 2012 election threatens to be the first to feature six presidential contenders — five of them Republicans. If even the one who has already left the flock does well, it could assure the re-election of Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, Republicans may have gotten a glimpse of what lies ahead next fall, as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson bolted the GOP to seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination.

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He is not the first and will not likely be the last Republican to seek another party’s nomination. This year’s contest offers an unprecedented vista of opportunities for also-rans to become standard-bearers.

If Mitt Romney is the nominee, Ron Paul may run on a fusion Libertarian-Constitution Party ticket. Paul has pointedly refused to rule out a third party run. That could spell serious trouble for the GOP. Paul currently polls 21 percent in a three-way race against Obama and Romney, tipping an evenly contested race decidedly toward the incumbent. Nonetheless, Commentary magazine insists the “GOP Shouldn’t Fear a [Ron] Paul Third Party Run.”

If Paul snubs the Constitution Party — or chooses the pro-choice Gary Johnson as his running-mate — the CP will probably nominate former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, a onetime Republican who joined the Constitution Party last year. (Under no circumstances will party founder Howard Phillips allow the party’s ballot line to go vacant, even if a political ally is running in another party, a fact he proved in 2000.) The party’s national committee took the unusual step of urging Goode to seek its presidential nomination in April. So, enter Republican candidate number three.

Seeing Paul get in on the act would likely be enough to inspire Donald Trump. Trump has said, “I probably will run as an independent” if the GOP nominates “the wrong candidate.” Trump, who believes he will do well with black voters, nearly entered the Reform Party’s presidential contest in 2000 to stop Pat Buchanan; he would gladly throw his hat in the ring to crush Ron Paul, whom he has even stronger words for. That is also trouble for Republicans. Trump polls nearly as high as Paul in a three-way contest against Obama and Romney. He wins 19 percent of the vote, with his support skewing heavily Republican.

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Then, too, the RINOs may demand a candidate of their own. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer has already announced he will seek the presidential nomination of the Americans Elect Party, the RINO front group allied with the “No Labels” movement. Jon Huntsman would make a more natural fit, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg covets the mantle for himself. Any of the three may end up on the ballot. If Bloomberg senses a faltering GOP he, and his billions, may saddle up for the ride. ABC News reports Bloomberg is “most popular among liberal Democrats.”

Finally, there will be a Green Party candidate. However, Dennis Kucinich has essentially ruled himself out of the running. It is difficult to imagine the Left appreciably fracturing Obama’s base. Yet someone will try.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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