The Boston Globe here breaks down the Popular Vote state by state. You'll notice that no independent candidate got more than 1% of the vote anywhere -- except for Ron Paul's 2% in Montana, which was self-evidently a protest vote. The paper doesn't have a national total, but at first glance it looks like Ralph Nader did best of the lot, followed by Barr (whose performance must be especially disappointing to the Libertarians) and Baldwin. In just one state, North Carolina, can any independent even claim to be a spoiler. Barr's vote there is approximately equivalent to the tiny margin separating Obama and McCain, but the point is moot. That state hasn't yet declared a winner but the speeches have already been made.
It's obvious that the novelty of Obama overshadowed the novelty of independent parties. One of the beauties of the American Bipolarchy is the illusion it creates of a choice between persons rather than between parties. Some of us tear our hair out over the way voters will repudiate one party, then return it to power four or eight years later. They somehow convince themselves that the man not being the same is more important than the party being very much the same. Brand-name consciousness doesn't work both ways like it does in the actual commercial world. No matter how many times a Democrat or a Republican screws things up for the country, hardly anyone concludes that they'll never vote for that party again -- or if they do decide that, they forget their decision within four or eight years. Neither party ever becomes the "Yugo" of parties, indelibly identified with failure. That may be because the party primaries serve in effect as an opening round of the general election, so that whoever emerges as the nominee is a "proven leader" with an automatic degree of credibility and legitimacy that an independent candidate almost never matches. The Bipolarchy endures because people don't really hold the parties responsible for their candidates the way they'd hold a brand responsible for shoddy product. The constant turnover of personalities masks the persistence of institutional hegemony at the state and national levels. It's as if people really do believe that the Democratic and Republican parties are branches of the government, official and public rather than private entities. For such people, voting for another party might seem like amending the Constitution, or overthrowing it -- a revolutionary act. It may not be until more people are in a genuinely revolutionary mood that independent parties will have any success in this country, but you have to wonder what it would take to get people in that mood, and whether the experiment would be worth it.