Posted by: vicholdsforth | August 30, 2012

Third Party Candidates

Lately some of my friends have been taking internet quizzes to help them decide for whom they will vote in November.  While I’m gratified to see that folks are taking the election seriously enough to take some time to prepare to vote, by all accounts the presidential election is going to be a close one; and I’m a bit concerned about the effect third-party candidates will have on the outcome.  I’m concerned because third-party candidates tend to draw votes away from the candidate to whom they are most ideologically similar; in other words, they split the vote, causing defeat for the candidate they and their supporters most agree with, and help the candidate to whom they are most opposed win election.  Libertarian spokespersons have already bragged about the “spoiler” effect their candidate could potentially have in the November election.

Let’s take a look at the 2008 US Senate race in Minnesota as an example.  On the ballot were Al Franken (D), incumbent Norm Coleman (R), Dean Barkley (I), Charles Aldrich (L), and Constitution candidate James Niemackl.  Niemackl entered the race because he didn’t feel the Republican candidate was conservative enough, and pulled almost 9,000 votes away from Coleman.  In the end, this race was decided by the narrowest of margins, just over 300 votes.  Although several thousand more Minnesotans cast their ballot for a conservative candidate, because the vote was split between two conservatives, the people of the State of Minnesota ended up with a liberal senator…according to the National Journal, one of the most liberal in the nation.  Moreover, Franken put Democrats over the top in securing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  Had only one-tenth of the voters who cast a ballot for Niemackl voted for Coleman instead, Coleman would have been a member of the 111th Congress, and it’s likely that we would not now be saddled with the notorious Affordable Care Act.

If you think Barack Obama needs to go, the only way to get him out of office is to cast a ballot for a viable alternative.  The Libertarian candidate is not viable.  Even the most successful of independent candidates, such as Ross Perot, are not viable.  Mitt Romney is the only viable alternative to Barack Obama in 2012.  Voting for anyone besides Mitt Romney is essentially helping to keep Barack Obama in office for another four years.  If you’re dissatisfied with the candidates being offered by the two major parties, I understand.  Romney is not the candidate I backed during the primaries, and I’ve voted libertarian in the past, myself.  If there is a dearth of major candidates we can get excited about, I think the best way to address that is to become more involved in primaries and local elections (where most of these folks get their start), not to throw your vote away on a non-viable candidate.  This election is too close and the stakes are too high to waste your vote on a candidate who can’t possibly win.  I implore you save your “send-a-message” ballot for when the election looks to be a landslide.



  1. I’ve been reading that the election is actually going to be a landslide defeat over Obama, and that the MSM has skewed polling data…

    • I hope you’re right, Deb…the polling data I’ve been watching comes from Rasmussen, who’s generally viewed as pretty solid. Among the swing states, they’re calling it a dead heat, with Florida being a must-win for Romney (unless some states that they’re chalking up to Obama unexpectedly break for Romney).

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