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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."

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

5 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.