Tiny presence, unknown impact for 3rd parties

Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode are blips in the presidential race. They have little money, aren't on stage for presidential debates and barely register in the polls — when survey takers even bother to list them as options.
Associated Press
Oct 7, 2012


Yet in a tight race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney that likely will be won or lost at the margins, even blips can be a big deal.

Obama's campaign has quietly been tracking the two former Republican officeholders who could be pivotal in key states. Romney's campaign insists it's not worried, even though Republican allies have failed to keep them off state ballots.

Johnson is the Libertarian Party nominee; Goode the Constitution Party candidate.

"At the end of the day this is a two-person race as we're factoring things in like vote goals, turnout," Romney political director Rich Beeson said. "We take it into account, but I can't say I stay up at night thinking about what Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode is going to do."

Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, has qualified for the ballot in 48 states. Goode, a conservative ex-congressman from Virginia, is on ballots in about 25 states. Their standing matters most in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia — states Obama captured four years ago and that Romney has worked feverishly to convert.

In 2008, more than 2 million voters chose someone other than Obama or Republican nominee John McCain. In all but a few states, the winner's margin was so decisive that a third-party bleed-off was hardly worth noting. Obama's electoral college rout made it even less consequential.

This year's race has shaped up to be tighter. It has hallmarks of 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader drew finger-pointing from the left as a difference-maker between Republican George W. Bush's victory and Democrat Al Gore's loss given the excruciatingly close Florida finish. Jill Stein, this year's Green Party nominee, is viewed as far less of a potential factor than the two right-of-center hopefuls, Goode and Johnson.

With fewer paths to a White House win than Obama, Romney especially can't afford to surrender votes in battleground states.

In Virginia, his biggest threat is Goode, who could bite into Romney's right flank with a campaign appealing to voters who want to stem legal immigration and crack down harder on those in the country illegally. A Baptist with a Southern drawl who held Virginia political office for more than three decades, Goode presents himself as "a real difference between Romney and Obama."

Elsewhere, Johnson is the one to watch, though he could pose difficulties for both major party contenders.

The handyman-turned-politician proudly brags of setting veto records to block spending during two terms as governor. Occasionally donning a peace-sign shirt under his blazer, Johnson has blitzed college campuses with a message aimed at the anti-war, pro-drug legalization crowd that Texas Rep. Ron Paul cultivated in his GOP presidential run. Paul took a respectable share of the vote in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Paul has yet to endorse anyone in the race, and may not. Meanwhile, Romney has tried to heal fractures between Paul loyalists and the Republican old guard by deploying his former rival's son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, to campaign events.

New Hampshire state Sen. Andy Sanborn, an adviser to the elder Paul, said Johnson could score with voters at Romney's expense.

"That type of a libertarian candidate will always do well here. I'm hoping frankly that the race isn't close enough that Mr. Johnson will have a material impact in it," said Sanborn, who said he planned to vote for Romney.

Johnson considers himself a headache for both Obama and Romney.

"I'm more conservative than Romney on dollars and cents. I'm more liberal than Obama when it comes to social issues," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Johnson's support for gay marriage, eased immigration and a scaling back of government search powers authorized after the Sept. 11 terror attacks make him a wild card in some key states.

One is North Carolina, where Obama prevailed in 2008 by a slim 14,000 votes. Some 40,000 votes were cast for minor party candidates or write-ins, with Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr getting most of them. Michael Munger, the party's nominee for North Carolina governor the same year, doubted Johnson would have as much of a one-sided effect as the conservative hard-liner Barr.

"I actually think there's sort of a gentleman's agreement about Gary Johnson that neither party brings him up because it takes votes from both sides. In 2008, the Democrats mentioned Bob Barr," Munger said. "They worked to remind people of the fact Bob Barr was in it and real conservatives might want to consider him."

In Colorado, Johnson has aligned himself with a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Democratic strategist Rick Ridder, a Denver-based veteran of presidential campaigns, said some Democratic activists are supporting Johnson because of his stance on the referendum. But he thinks most voters passionate about making the drug legal to possess will send a message through the proposition itself and make other calculations on the presidential race.

Goode is also on Colorado's ballot. That's notable because two years ago former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo finished second in the race for governor under the American Constitution Party's banner.

Johnson, at least, has no problems being labeled a possible spoiler.

"A wasted vote is voting for someone you don't believe in," he said. "Vote for someone you believe in because that's how you change politics."



The Big Dog's back

I think Repubs should vote for Gary as an alternative to Rmoney.


No, people that truly value liberty should vote for Gary regardless of party affiliation. I usually vote Democratic but am proudly giving my vote to Gary Johnson this year.

the office cat



The Golden Rule:

The Republicrats own the gold, so they make the rules.

the office cat

Contango... you said YOU own the gold, you Republicrat!


“No, people that truly value liberty should vote for Gary regardless of party affiliation.”

Agreed. I’m tired of being emotionally blackmailed so that one of the top two parties get the vote. “A vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama/Romney.” No it isn’t. It’s a vote for Johnson. More importantly, it’s a vote *against* the corrupt and clearly broken two-party system.

I am still uncertain as to whether I will vote for Johnson or write in Ron Paul’s name (please don’t bother trying to convince me one way or the other, I am so far into the Libertarian party that there is nothing anyone can say here that will be new to me or influence me). One thing is for certain, however—I will NEVER vote Dem or Repub again. They are nothing but shills for Big Banks, Big Biz, and Big Pharma, and both parties have forgotten that they work for THE PEOPLE, not the corporate company that can best line their pockets. I am done with tax-and-spend, war mongering candidates, and that is all Obamney stands for. Regardless of which of the two wins, U.S. citizens will lose.

the office cat

Write-in Paul? Then you waste your vote because it won't be counted. To be counted, the candidate must file appropriate paperwork to BE a write-in candidate. Ron Paul has not done so in Ohio. If you write in ANYBODY on the ballot the entire ballot will be trashed. Just so you know.


@ MBR,

The office cat is correct. Ron Paul cannot be a write-in candidate in Ohio. There are only a few states when a write-in vote for Ron Paul would count and Ohio is not on that list. http://imgur.com/EF2bM


Your best bet would be a vote for Gary Johnson. http://www.garyjohnson2012.com/f...



A vote for "Obamney" is a vote for change.



Tell us why you will vote for Romney again? It must be sad to vote for someone you don't even like or trust. I have never had that problem.


@ Zippy:

What are you blooting about?

A vote for Pres. Obama, or a vote for Gov. Romney = a vote for "Obamney."


the office cat

@CONTANGO. Obamney... I think I must agree, especially after the debate when Romney (standing to the left) came off as more Democrat than the Democrat. Most of his policies - except the ominous VOUCHERS - could have been scribbled onto his hanky from the Dem platform.
So the really important races are those for Senate and especially for state offices.


@ the office cat:

Yep, the Repubs are the Dems of 40 yrs. ago and the Dems are fanatic socialists.

Notes "scribbled onto his hanky,"?

Unfortunately Pres. Obama's belt buckle teleprompter, which he spent much of his time looking at during the debate, had a malfunction.



Yeah, I had to chuckle when I heard that Romney actually wrote his debate notes on his handkerchief. Reminds me of when Sarah Palin wrote hers in ink on her hand. Pretty bad when you need reminders of your main talking points. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since Romney decided to celebrate Halloween a month early by showing up as a Democrat for Debate #1.

Does anyone really have any idea who Willard "Mitt" Romney really is? Does HE even know?


@ coasterfan:

Mr. Obama got his butt kicked and the best the Obamasheeple can do is practice the politics of character hatred.

VP Biden will be calling in sick with a sore throat for his debate with Rep. Ryan.

Rep. Ryan can just debate an empty podium, kinda like Gov. Romney's experience with Pres. Obama.


“[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters,” he proclaimed, “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.” – Barack Obama in 2008
We Know who this guy is and his record.

The Big Dog's back

I would say Joe would make ryan (Eddie Munster) look like an idiot, but ryan does a good job of that all by himself.