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Group pushes 'unity ticket' on Internet

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Founding member Hamilton Jordan, shown in 2005, was a chief of staff in the Carter White House.

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(CNN) -- A group that includes veterans of the Ford and Carter administrations is counting on public dissatisfaction with Washington partisanship to fuel an Internet campaign for a bipartisan "unity ticket" in the 2008 presidential election.

The group, Unity08, launched an effort this week to take the White House with either independents or with presidential and vice presidential candidates from different parties.

Founding member Angus King, a former two-term independent governor of Maine, said the movement can change the playing field in American politics. (Watch analysis of market for 'unity ticket' -- 2:01 )

"The whole idea is to take all the votes that would have gone to other parties and win the election," he said. "We're not in this as spoilers.''

"The people just want the problems solved, and that was the approach I took" as governor, King said.

But evidence suggests voters see politics as the enemy of problem-solving. National surveys conducted this month found President Bush's approval rating at 36 percent -- and Congress' even lower.

"The general public stands back and looks at all the fighting and negative ads and says, 'You know, who are these people and why are they doing this?'" King said.

That sentiment echoes statements made by Ross Perot during his 1992 campaign for president.

"In Washington, you have a combination of theater, images, magic acts and illusions," Perot said at the time.

Polls indicate the market for an independent candidate is greater now than at any time since 1992, when Perot got nearly 20 percent of the vote.

A survey conducted recently for CNN by the Opinion Research Corp. found that 62 percent of Americans were at least somewhat likely to vote for an independent candidate, compared with 31 percent who were not likely.

But if presidential campaigns are horse races, as they are often characterized, Unity08 does not yet have a horse it can rally behind.

"The horse is hopefully coming to us," King said. "We're not starting with a horse.''

Unity08, based in Denver, Colorado, plans to hold an online convention in early 2008 to select its ticket.

The group says on its Web site the "crucial issues" facing the nation have been overshadowed by those it calls merely "important issues."

A Unity08 press release listed some of the nation's crucial issues as education, energy independence, deficit spending, global terrorism, health care and nuclear proliferation. Among the merely "important" issues were gay marriage, gun control and abortion rights.

The Democratic and Republican parties have increasingly focused their presidential campaigns on narrow issues intended to turn out their "base," according to Unity08.

"As a result Washington has been polarized and paralyzed, and the voters are ready to take their country back," said two of the group's founding members in a press release. They are Hamilton Jordan, who was chief of staff in the Carter White House, and Doug Bailey, founder of The Hotline political newsletter and a former Republican political consultant.

A poll commissioned by the group found that 85 percent of Americans think the two-party system has become too polarized to solve the nation's problems -- and 73 percent think more choices in the presidential election would be a good idea.

"A unity ticket in office for just one term, or taking part in just one election, will bring new ideas, new integrity and new leaders to American politics," Bailey and Jordan said in their statement.

The idea is not likely to be greeted warmly by either major party because of the likelihood that a third choice on the ballot would siphon off votes from the two major candidates.

Some Democrats accused consumer advocate and political activist Ralph Nader of helping Bush win in 2000 by drawing votes from Democrat Al Gore. And Republicans said the same about Perot helping President Clinton defeat the first President Bush in 1992.

Only once since 1800 has the United States elected a president and a vice president from different parties: Republican President Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Andrew Johnson in 1864. Lincoln was assassinated and though Johnson was eventually impeached by a Republican Congress, he was acquitted and remained in office.

CNN's Jeff Green and Bill Schneider contributed to this report.

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