It’s not likely, but the 2012 general election could turn into 1860 all over again, depending on how things pan out in the Republican primary season.

The raucous election of 1860, which was the flash point for the American Civil War, saw four candidates receive electoral votes and in the double digits of popular vote percentage. I believe there is a scenario that could see something like this happen again in 2012.

The story that broke this possibility in my head is a story today that Donald Trump declared that we would “probably” run as an independent if he did not win the Republican nomination.

So what would have to happen for this craziness to even be possible?

First, someone like Mitt Romney would have to win the Republican nomination. While Romney continually attempts to cast himself as a conservative, his past record didn’t sit well with conservatives in the 2008 GOP race, and the guess here is it won’t in 2012.

If Romney wins, there exists the possibility that a Tea Party candidate could bolt and run in the general election as well. Ron Paul has hinted that another run as a Libertarian Candidate could be in the cards if he were unable to secure the Republican nomination in 2012:

“I guess in life, you should keep all options open. But right now, I’m still a Republican congressman and we did it last time as a Republican,” he said.

If not Paul, there are a couple other extremely well known Tea Party members who could shake up the field as well, namely Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. I personally think Bachmann would be the more likely of those two to strike out on her own, but if any third party candidate were to emerge under the Tea Party banner, my money would be on Ron Paul.

Again, the odds of this happening are pretty long, but given the current economic and political conditions of the time, California Governor Jerry Brown’s assessment of the current state of national divide may not be all that far-fetched.