Spoilers — candidates who run on a third-party ticket — are a concern in any presidential election. In our evenly divided country, that Libertarian or Green Party candidate can siphon off just enough votes to be deadly to the Republican or Democrat. But 2024 is already giving Democrats nightmares.
The conditions have certainly been ripening for spoiler candidates for the past several cycles. The more radicalized politicians become, the more voters hunger for sane, stable options. Others are frustrated with establishment-friendly lawmakers who they feel don’t represent them.
Third Way, a progressive think tank that makes an effort not to be completely radical, has released a panicky report on the subject.
It isn’t the first time and it certainly won’t be the last, but American voters are frustrated with the state of our politics, and approval ratings for both the Democratic and Republican parties are low. Data showing this discontent and interest in alternatives have led some to consider running a third-party candidate for president in 2024.
Axios summarizes the main concern of the lengthy report:
The big picture: Voters’ growing dissatisfaction with both parties — and with candidates considered too extreme on either side — has reenergized a quiet campaign to recruit and fund an alternative presidential ticket without a D or R next to their name.
- Over the course of this year, the bipartisan group No Labels has been working to build a $70M operation supporting a third-party option in 2024.
- No Labels didn’t rule out boosting an alternative to Biden should he run again, but told Axios that they won’t offer a presidential ticket “if that choice isn’t needed,” per its spokesman Ryan Clancy.
- “Our citizen leaders from around the nation have no interest in fueling a spoiler,” Clancy said. “But if the public urgently wants and needs another choice, we’ll make sure they have it.”
While the U.S. two-party electoral system is such that spoilers don’t have a chance of winning, $70 million can buy a lot of viability.
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What about a spoiler on the right? One possibility is so terrifying, I dare not say it out loud. The scenario is this: Donald Trump does not get the 2024 nod from the GOP and wrathfully runs as a third-party candidate. There is no other Republican who could overcome the number of votes he would pull, and the Globalist-Socialist — excuse me, I mean Democrat — nominee would skate away with the win.
But the same thing that makes Democrats fear a spoiler more than usual is also true on the right; that is, if both Trump and a Republican Party candidate ran, there would be two viable candidates running against the opposing party’s one. Again, the key word here is viability, and in this case, it could actually work against the Democrat.
“Third Way’s analysis found that Trump voters are stickier — they like him more than Biden voters like Biden. So they’re not as likely to jump around,” notes Axios. Third Way reports:
Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was not due to any erosion in support for Donald Trump. Rather, not only did Trump’s raw vote total increase, but in the key states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Trump’s share of the vote actually increased. …
Pundits spent years waiting for Trump’s base to leave him, either by abandoning the GOP and supporting Democrats, or by staying home on Election Day. But they won’t. The Trump base is far more loyal than Biden’s coalition.
In a three-way race, Trump would keep all of his supporters while a Republican Party candidate would draw the never-Trumpers who would’ve stayed home otherwise. And after two more years of Bidenomics, illegal alien invasion, rising crime, and a possible nuclear war, the Republican candidate could conceivably sop up a significant number of disenchanted Independents and Democrats. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine a lot of excitement for more of the same among Democrats.
In other words, between Trump and the GOP nominee, the full spectrum on the Right would be energized to vote. Not so much the Left.
The good news is that neither candidate on the right needs to win in this scenario; they just need to win enough states between them that no one gets to 270 electoral votes, says Third Way:
But if a third-party candidate blew past historic precedent and managed to win a significant number of Electoral College votes – enough to keep any candidate from getting 270 – the outcome would be decided in the House of Representatives
What would that look like?
When the House decides an election, each state delegation receives one vote. After the 2022 midterms, Republicans control 25 out of the 50 state delegations, while Democrats control 23, with two split evenly. To win the presidency in the House of Representatives, a candidate would need the support of 26 state delegations. It is therefore likely that if an election was thrown to the House, we would plunge into a constitutional crisis, with neither candidate able to reach the threshold to win. And because Republicans control more of the state delegations, a Republican candidate would be at an advantage.
2024’s uncommon openness to third-party candidates combined with a Republican House rendering the final verdict creates a path to the right retaking control of the executive branch. Just think of it as the latest evolution of America’s newly sloppy elections.
Sure, there would be rioting. But perhaps the new, improved DOJ could actually investigate and imprison the people who make that happen for once.
Ideally, of course, none of this will happen. The most likely path for Republicans to claim victory is to keep fighting for election integrity while embracing legal changes to how Americans vote.