In a presidential race where the likely nominees of both major political parties have major disapproval ratings, is there room for a third choice?
New polling says maybe.
An NBC–Wall Street Journal survey this week shows 47 percent of registered voters would consider a third party candidate if the Republican and Democratic choices were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
This weekend, the Libertarian Party will hold its convention to nominate a candidate. Front-runner Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is polling at 10 percent in some recent surveys that include his name with Trump and Clinton.
While Americans have not elected a third party president, there have been some strong attempts: George Wallace won almost 14 percent in 1968. Ross Perot got 19 percent in 1992 and eight percent in 1996. Ralph Nader in 2000 got more than two percent of the vote, but that was enough to keep Al Gore from winning Florida, giving George W. Bush the presidency.
With the election still about six months away, talk of a viable third party candidate is still remarkably strong. But is there action behind the talk?
Americans Cry Out for a Third Choice When Both Candidates have Record Unfavorables
James K. Glassman – Real Clear Politics
In a survey released Friday, the New York Times/CBS News poll, confirmed the WSJ/NBC findings, though its net unfavorable were not quite as glaring. Trump was viewed favorably by just 26 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 55 percent; Clinton’s scores were 31 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable….
These abysmal results reflect an electorate crying out for a third choice….
The real question, however, is why – at a time when independents outnumber both Democrats and Republicans by wide margins – an independent candidate did not step up earlier. The answer is pretty simple. The two parties have stacked the deck. Independents and third-party candidates have to gather millions of signatures, they are drastically limited in the amounts they can raise from donors, and, worst of all, they face a practically insurmountable obstacle in the rules for admission to the final fall presidential debates. And if you aren’t in the debates, you can’t get elected president.
What Would a Viable Third-Party Look Like in 2016
Noah Millman – The American Conservative
So what could a viable third-party challenger run on? Perhaps the way to get at the answer is to ask: who is being excluded by the current set of major-party choices?
The most obvious answer is: younger voters. Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s primary victories were powered by older voters in their respective parties, and both candidates are distinctly unpopular among voters under 30. Younger voters do have distinct views and interests. They tend to be more dovish, less socially-conservative, more supportive of an active government role in the economy and yet less attached to entitlements that primarily benefit the elderly.
Overall, that sounds mostly like the profile of a part of the Democratic coalition – and, indeed, younger cohorts tend to be the least-Republican-leaning of voters. So a third-party candidacy aimed at winning these voters would just be taking a bite out of Clinton’s hide.
Get Ready for a Third Party Run from Bernie Sanders
Edward Morrissey – The Fiscal Times
Populist anger has driven wedges in both the Republican and Democratic parties in this cycle. It succeeded in seizing the GOP’s presidential nomination with Donald Trump, but appears to have fallen short among Democrats as Bernie Sanders has no mathematical path to the nomination….
That has not mellowed the progressive-populist uprising that made Sanders an unlikely obstacle to the Clinton Restoration, however. Instead, the close call appears to have sharpened its intensity….
Sanders would still face the same sore-loser laws and ballot access issues as would a conservative independent – if he didn’t have an established party to back him. Unlike conservatives, who lack such a nationally established option, there is at least a possibility that Sanders could appeal to the Green Party. The Greens will hold their convention a couple of weeks after the Democrats do, in the first weekend of August.
Could We See a Four-Way Race for President?
Jonah Goldberg – Los Angeles Times
At this point, the smart thing to do from the purist-progressive perspective would probably be (for Bernie Sanders) to continue fighting within the Democratic Party for evermore leverage over the Clinton campaign and in Congress while the best thing for the party would be for him to fold up shop immediately.
What if he does neither? What if he concludes that the party rigged the game against him and bolts to run as the independent he is? Would the Green Party – which ran Ralph Nader to disastrous effect for Democrats in 2000 – nominate him at their August convention?
Sanders’ third-party bid could well encourage a fourth-party bid from an authentic conservative, such as Romney or Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. And in a four-way race (or five-way if you include the Libertarian Party), all bets are off.
Win or Lose, a Third Party Run Would Be Mitt Romney’s Greatest Legacy
Jamie Weinstein – The Daily Caller
Clearly a third party run would be an uphill battle. But Romney should keep in mind that all those who say that a third party candidacy has no shot to succeed also predicted Donald Trump had no chance to be the Republican nominee. Nothing is certain this election cycle.
Indeed, if a third party candidate ever had a shot of being viable again, this seems like the year. A new poll shows that even without campaigning, Romney is within striking distance of Trump and Clinton nationally, trailing Trump by just 13-percentage points and Clinton by 15-percentage points in a hypothetical match-up. Not bad for an undeclared candidate who would not have the backing of either of the two major parties.
Could Romney win enough states to push the election to the House of Representatives? Stranger things have happened. Could the Republican-controlled House choose Romney over Trump and Clinton? Sure, why not?