Third party candidates are nothing new; Ross Perot ran in 1992 and 1996. During campaigning, he sometimes polled ahead of both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, though he ended with less than 10 percent of all votes come election day.
Ever since Ralph Nader’s infamous impact on the 2000 presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican parties have feared an influential third party candidate. While third parties provide hope for independent voters, the establishment is worried about the threat to its power. Party leaders see the grim possibility of the spoiler effect, in which a minor independent or third party candidate draws votes away from a major candidate, affecting the outcome of an election.
The campaign of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, sent letters to major polling firms this week asking them to include him in any surveys they conduct as a prelude to trying to earn his way into the presidential debates this fall. The Commission on Presidential Debates, the semi-official group that hosts the quadrennial showdowns, relies on polling performance as a chief measure of whether they invite third-party candidates to participate. The other requirement is that a candidate appear on enough states' ballots to be able to earn enough electoral votes to become president. Mr. Johnson has already met that through the strength of the Libertarian Party's operation. But the polling requirement is trickier. Many polls simply ask about a head-to-head match-up between President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, meaning Mr. Johnson is left out. In the campaign letter, his vice presidential nominee, Jim Gray, said Mr. Johnson is polling in the significant single digits in some states, which he said shows the Libertarian ticket "has the backing to affect the election's outcome."
You might think the presidential race is settled with two candidates. But there's one candidate you might not have heard much about. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket. Johnson speaks with host Michel Martin about his policies and the challenges he has getting his message heard.
Listen to the segment here.
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman explains why "we need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate":
The best our current two parties can produce today — in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century — is suboptimal... Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party.
"If competition is good for our economy," asks Diamond, "why isn’t it good for our politics?"
We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear...