Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Image

Unite America, formerly the Centrist Project, is launching the first-ever bloc of five independent candidates running for Senate and governor across the U.S. It's an effort to capitalize on the vacuum created by the intense polarization the U.S. has experienced in recent years.

Why it matters: We've seen several centrist campaigns like this before, and none have been overly successful in challenging the country's two-party system. But the group and its candidates argue that the current state of extreme partisan politics in America, something that most Americans say they are dissatisfied with, creates an opportunity for them to move the needle forward.

"There are a lot of challenges around this, but because the political situation [in the U.S.] is so bad, we're actually the best game in town. To the skeptics, I'd ask, do you think the status quo is going to change itself? The answer is almost always no. Politics is not a self-correcting system."
— Unite America founder Charles Wheelan

The candidates: Craig O’Dear of Missouri and Neal Simon of Maryland are running for Senate, while current Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, State Treasurer Terry Hayes of Maine, and Greg Orman of Kansas are running for governor.

The data: According to Gallup, roughly 61% of Americans today think a third major party is needed in the U.S. — the highest Gallup has recorded. Meanwhile, just 34% think the Republican and Democratic parties suffice.

Yes, but: Independents claim nearly every major election year as "their year," but the strength of the two-party duopoly always wins out. Wheelan says his team recognizes this. "The movement will take a couple election cycles to fulfill, but we're getting the ball rolling. Every time you run a high quality person in a race they can win, we're moving forward."

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