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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Could a third-party candidate actually derail Biden?” Nicole Narea addresses the question at Vox and writes, “A third-party candidacy generally tries to carve out unique policy positions distinct from the major parties. (See, for instance, Cornel West’s bid from Biden’s left.)…No Labels has put out what it calls a “common sense” policy platform that appears to be a blueprint for a third-party candidate, and that tries to split the difference between Republican and Democratic positions. However, it fails to acknowledge major sticking points: For example, it asserts that “America must strike a balance between protecting women’s rights to control their own reproductive health and our society’s responsibility to protect human life,” but doesn’t articulate what that balance is — except that it’s not Florida’s six-week abortion ban….The group has said that any third-party nominee it recruits would have the freedom to diverge from that platform. But those kinds of vague platitudes won’t help the case of any such candidate, risking offending both sides of an issue over which the country remains bitterly divided….a third-party candidate is unlikely to gain much traction at all given the history of such failed bids….But even just a little bit of traction could undermine Biden’s razor-thin margins in states such as Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, where he won by just 44,000 votes altogether in 2020….“Under the guise of this gauzy, mythical bipartisan ticket, No Labels is actually trying to hurt the chances of reelection of the incumbent Democratic president, because that is what this election is — a referendum on the first term of the Democratic president,” [pollster Fernand] Amandi said. Lieberman, for his part, claimed on ABC Sunday that No Labels is just aiming to fix the problem that the “American people are not buying what the two parties are selling anymore.”….Voters had similar ennui with both former President Barack Obama and then-Sen. John McCain in 2008, and with Ronald Reagan when he sought reelection in 1984.”

New Republic Editor Michael Tomasky writes, “I’ll grant that on some level, No Labels may be expressing a genuine frustration on the part of moderates about the two-party system (more on which later). But these are political professionals, deep insiders, and they all understand very well that their efforts are likely to help elect the anti-democrat. And they don’t care. In fact, what we know so far tells us that the people at No Labels prefer the anti-democrat….We have another candidate who has already proven he is way outside normal, given that he watched eagerly as a mob sought to kill his own vice president. And No Labels wants to run another normal candidate, obviously splitting the normal vote. And they’re doing so under color of the most mendacious rhetoric, about “unity” and “common sense” and the preposterous idea that this candidate of theirs could win….People have varying degrees of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, which is fine and natural. Other people are fed up with “the two-party duopoly,” as it’s often put, and that’s fine too. But anyone who has studied the question—as the No Labels leaders surely have—knows that running long-shot presidential candidates is not the way one changes that.” Tomasky concludes, “The choice next year will likely be between a candidate who will defend and preserve democracy and a candidate who will seek from his first hour in office to strangle it. I would think that choice would be clear. If Trump wins and follows through on what he says he will do, history will have a harsh verdict to render on all those who thought 2024, of all years, was the year to take his threats lightly.”

Harry Enten weighs in on the topic at CNN Politics and explains, “This would normally be the part of the story where I’d tell you that a third-party candidate has little chance of winning next year – and I am telling you that. It’s also true, however, that 2024 is shaping up to be the kind of election Biden could lose primarily because of a third-party candidacy….Let’s start off with the basic fact that the very early 2024 general election polling is tight. Depending on how you average the polling, Biden is either up or down a point or two against former President Donald Trump (the most likely GOP nominee at this point)….This is important because if the polls were pointing to a blowout, it would take a very popular third-party candidate to change the outcome of the general election….Instead, all it may take to affect that outcome is for a sliver of the electorate to back a third-party candidate instead of either Biden or Trump in a hypothetical matchup….it seems voters who don’t have a favorable view of either Biden or Trump are more likely to go with Biden. In an average of the past three Quinnipiac University polls, Biden leads Trump by 7 points among those who don’t have a favorable view of either man. This is a reversal from 2016 when voters in the same camp supported Trump….The national polls I’ve seen over the past few months that have included a third-party or independent candidate have shown Biden losing ground to Trump relative to when only the two of them are matched up….It’s not a substantial difference (1 to 3 points), as detailed by FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley. But all it may take is a shift of 1 to 3 points to change the electoral outcome if the race remains so close….We’re still well over a year from the election. Independent and third-party candidates almost always fade the closer we get to Election Day – see 2016, when Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson got about 3% nationally when early polling had shown him closer to 10%….Biden and the Democrats better hope that a similar trend occurs, if he remains this unpopular.”

Julia Shapero reports that “Almost half in new poll would consider third-party presidential candidate” at The Hill. As Shapero writes, “Almost half of voters in a poll released Wednesday said they would consider casting their ballot for a third-party presidential candidate in the 2024 election….The Quinnipiac University poll found that 47 percent of respondents said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate, while another 47 percent said they would not….Independents were much more likely than Democrats or Republicans to say they would consider voting for a candidate not running under a major party banner. While 64 percent of independents said they would consider a third-party ticket, just 35 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans said the same.” Former Democratic Majority Leader in the House of Reps, Richard Gephardt, now representing Citizens to Save Our Republic, adds in a PBS interview: “….if it’s a two-person race….that Joe Biden wins by four points, which is precisely what he won by in 2020. But if you put a third-party, independent, bipartisan candidate — and that’s the way we phrased it, to give it the best benefit of the doubt — then Joe Biden loses by five or six points….If you look at 2020, it was independent moderate voters in six swing states that stayed enough with Biden for him to win the race over Donald Trump. We cannot have Donald Trump back in the White House. He engineered an overthrow of the electoral process. He would do it again….So we’re going to do messaging in every way we can. We’re going to talk to everybody that’s involved and try to speak common sense to them that this is a risk we cannot take in this country. This democracy is fragile. It’s always fragile. It can collapse. We can lose our ability to have elections.”

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