May 23, 2004

Bush's Third-Party Threat

David Paul Kuhn on the possible libertarian threat to Bush in the 2004 election:

With conservatives upset over the ballooning size of the federal government under a Republican White House and Congress - and a portion of the political right having opposed the war in Iraq from the start or else dismayed at how it's being handled - the Libertarian nominee, who will be on the ballot in 49 states, may do for Democrats in 2004 what Nader did for Republicans in 2000.

It is a hypothesis not yet made in the mainstream media. But interviews with third-party experts and activists across the country, as well as recent political patterns, illustrate that there could be a conservative rear-guard political attack against President Bush.

"I think [the Bush campaign] should be concerned. I don’t know how concerned," said Don Devine, vice chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP insider. "They need to work on it and I think they know they need to work on it."

(...)

"The Libertarians will impact Republicans more than Nader will impact Democrats," said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the 2004 Elections Project for the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota and possibly the nation’s preeminent expert on third-party politics.

In the key battleground state of Wisconsin, the 2002 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson garnered 85,455 votes, a startling 10.5 percent. The new governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, won the state by about 75,000 votes.

(...)

For Robert Novak, if Libertarians do not make their presence felt this election and Mr. Bush’s loses, the third-party will hold political weight in 2008.

"I just had breakfast with a guy and we discussed that people are already talking, as politicians do, about the what-ifs," said Novak. "Everybody believes if Bush loses, the Republican Party will move to the left in ’08, to the Schwarzenegger and Giuliani strain, and that is where you really get the possibility of a serious third-party movement."