The Center for the Study of Politics and Governance has released a report studying the potential impact third parties may have on the 2008 presidential race. From the report:
“Third parties may determine the outcome of the 2008 presidential contest between the presumptive Democratic and Republican Party candidates, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. Careful review of recent presidential and statewide elections reveals two central findings that may provide the key to the 2008 presidential race:
· Third party candidates have enjoyed persistent success in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections since the 1990s. These results may be leading indicators of voter inclination to vote for a third party presidential candidate.
· Third party candidates may impact the Obama-McCain contest by shaping the debate and, more dramatically, by playing King Maker by capitalizing on third party successes in as many as 28 state-wide races in 2006.
The report, co-authored by Center Director Larry Jacobs and Smart Politics’ Eric Ostermeier, examines how third parties played King Maker in 17 gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races from 1998 through 2006 (a third party is ‘King Maker’ when it receives more votes than the margin of victory and the losing major party was ideologically related to the King Maker (e.g. Libertarian/Republican; Green/Democrat)).
The report details that while Democrats fear the “Nader effect” from 2000, Libertarians have denied numerous GOP victories in statewide races over the years (e.g. Maria Cantwell’s 2000 U.S. Senate victory in Washington, Jon Tester’s 2006 Senate victory in Montana). From the report:
In the 2002 South Dakota U.S. Senate election, the 3,070 votes for Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans were enough to upend Republican John Thune’s effort to beat Democrat Tim Johnson. When it became apparent that Evans might tip the race to Johnson, the Libertarian actually dropped out of the race in mid-October 2002 and endorsed Thune, stating, “I’ve suspended my campaign and endorsed John Thune in the race for the U.S. Senate. I’ve always had more agreements than disagreements with Congressman Thune on the issues.�? Nonetheless, Johnson prevailed thanks to lingering statewide support for Evans.
The attention to Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr has increased in recent weeks after two surveys by InsiderAdvantage found him polling at 6 and 4 percent in his home (deep red) state of Georgia, causing McCain’s lead to fall within the poll’s margin of error.
The full report can be found here: http://politicsandgovernance.org/reports/2008/Third_Party_Impact.pdf