In 2000, many felt that Ralph Nader tipped the scales, allowing George Bush to take the electoral college despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore. Since then, the role of 3rd party candidates has been closely monitored. In this tight election, these candidates can indeed swing the election, statistically speaking.
The two leading candidates for the role of Ralph Nader in this years election turn out to be former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode. While some might scoff at the thought of either of these two men playing kingmaker, the polls are telling a very different story.
At the end of September, Gravis Marketing’s survey of 594 likely voters found Gary Johnson with a solid 10% of the vote. With Johnson taking votes predominantly away from Mitt Romney, as Johnson has been actively courting former Ron Paul supporters, this changes the entire dynamic of the Ohio race.
Polls have primarily excluded former Congressman Goode, but the few which have included him have shown a clear effect on the election in Virginia. With the Romney campaigns attempt to remove Goode from the ballot in Virginia failed enabling him to run alongside the two front runner candidates. In those polls which did include Goode, they found Obama winning the state of Virginia by a solid 11%.
This election is about ideas, and about the future. While the two front runners are predicted to win, there is the statistical possibility of one of the other candidates managing a victory. In addition, strong showings by third parties often times force major parties to shift their positions to accomadate or else become marginalized in the future. With the Republican parties clear inability to win honestly and disconnect from the voters, this is the path they are on today. A strong showing by a third party candidate might be the key to salvaging the Grand Old Party.
One of the issues with manipulating the votes, as the Republican Party has clearly demonstrated in their primary this year, along with eliminating their own party members at the convention, is that it creates disillusionment among the unknowing majority. They feel that their ideas are ignored, forgotten, and that they are unimportant to the leadership. These disheartened voters will begin to cast their eyes elsewhere.
The lesson of 2000 for the Democratic party is that Clinton’s triangulation tactic of the 1990′s had shot themselves in the foot. They had disheartened many of their base, which cast their eyes and settled on Nader. And in this election, the GOP is about to feel that same bite. The manipulation of their voter base and ignoring of the voters demands along with ignoring the shift in demographics, we are seeing a serious problem forming for the self-titled Grand Old Party.
Otherwise when my son is able to vote, they might be in the same position as the Whig Party today.