How Do You Define a Successful Third Party Candidacy?

Earlier today I published an article on Liberty Daily where I speculated a little bit about what Gary Johnson’s ultimate showing might be when all the votes are counted. At this point, having seen all the minor party candidates shut out of the debates and starved of coverage by the media, and with the race between Obama and Romney still relatively close, I am not expecting a gigantic third party vote on November 6th. Having said that, I would love to be pleasantly surprised.

One thing that I always hate is when I encounter the post-election disappointment coming from people who are brand new to minor party politics.

It’s not their fault really, as for many of them this might be the very first presidential election where they’re truly engaged. They often have wildly, ridiculously grand expectations. This is the first time they’ve ever been excited about anything political and when the returns start rolling in they feel crushed — even if their candidate did significantly better than might have been expected.

With that in mind, I decided to offer up my own set of “victory conditions” for each of the top five minor party tickets. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are, so feel free to sound off in the comments area below with your own predictions.

GARY JOHNSON – LIBERTARIAN PARTY: As I laid out in greater length on Liberty Daily, I’d consider anything over one-million votes to be a victory for the Johnson campaign. If they can top 1% nationally, that would be an even greater accomplishment. Meeting both goals would make the Johnson/Gray ticket the most successful in party history by any measure. Additionally, it would be nice to see the ticket top 3% in at least one or two states. I think the Libertarians have a great chance for success, as Johnson is the party’s most qualified and best-known nominee in history and there is no Ross Perot or Ralph Nader standing in the minor party spotlight for the first time since 1988.

JILL STEIN – GREEN PARTY: The Green Party has been living in the shadow of Ralph Nader for the past two cycles as his independent campaigns in 2004 and 2008 have sucked up all the oxygen on the left. Jill Stein has run a remarkable and very lean campaign to date, making the most of almost every opportunity presented to her. If Stein can outperform Nader’s 2004 showing of 463,000 votes, I think that would have to be considered a successful outing that puts the Green Party back on track in a post-Nader world.

VIRGIL GOODE – CONSTITUTION PARTY: The Constitution Party, originally operating under the name U.S. Taypayers Party, has been running candidates for president since 1992. Former Congressman Virgil Goode has, by far, the most impressive resume of any of the party’s nominees. Unfortunately, his ballot access efforts have fallen flat and he will not appear on the ballot in several key states like California and Pennsylvania. Last time around Pastor Chuck Baldwin won 199,880 votes, the party’s best-ever popular voting showing for president. Goode needs to, at a bare minimum, top that result.

ROCKY ANDERSON – JUSTICE PARTY: Former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson’s quixotic, low-budget bid for the White House and attempt to launch a new left-leaning party do not seem to have caught too much fire. While he’ll be on the ballot in 15 states, Anderson’s best hopes for a significant percentage showing come from his home state of Utah and Connecticut, a state where he is on the ballot and Jill Stein is not. I recently did an extended post where I tried to predict Anderson’s vote total and came up with about 97,000 votes. The more I think about it, the more I start to believe that number is a bit of a reach. Anderson should be very happy if he gets over 100,000 votes and anything north of 80,000 votes should probably be considered a good day.

ROSEANNE BARR – PEACE & FREEDOM PARTY: After several decades of remaining active in only California, the Peace and Freedom Party has decided to take the first steps towards going national, nominating actress and activist Roseanne Barr for President and anti-war crusader Cindy Sheehan for Vice-President.  The Peace and Freedom ticket has filed as an official write-in option in most states and will appear on the ballot under the Peace & Freedom line in California, Colorado and Florida.  Considering that the party has accomplished their primary objective of expanding beyond California, this election should already be considered a big success regardless of the ultimate results.  It’s now been 40 years since the PFP nominated Dr. Benjamin Spock for President under the national banner of the People’s Party. That ticket secured nearly 79,000 votes, a total that the Barr campaign should be delighted if it can match.


  1. charlottescot says:

    I take exception to your description of Rocky Anderson’s Justice Party as being left-wing. It is definitely Progressive but as a former member of the Executive Committee I can tell you, participants in the Justice Party are not limited to “Left-wingers.” People I met included Republicans, Democrats Tea Partyers. Liberals, Conservatives… right across the board. The thing they all had in common was a quest for the truth and a chance for a return to Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice. You don’t have to be a “Lefty” to want the people on Wall Street who nearly brought down our country to go to jail. Climate change is not a left-wing concern. The term “left-wing” implies a radical philosophy much as does the term “right wing.” “Progressive” is how I would describe the Justice Party and all disenfranchised voters are welcome to help create this new third party.

  2. I wish I could be happy as a result of the various choices voters have on election day. Given the complete exclusion of non-duopoly candidates from the media formerly known as mainstream I am still less than pleased with the system American voters are given. In Arizona there will be ten choices for president, four of which will be printed on the ballot.

  3. Pingback: Skull / Bones » Blog Archive » … and the right-wing third party Presidential candidates

  4. As far as Gary Johnson goes, I can pretty much guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised, since at the moment you allege to be claiming to be hoping for 1m votes in the libertarian column. (Methinks you are *really* just trying to shape expectations, rather than make a truthful prediction about what is most likely.) Well, I don’t care about shaping expectations. 1m votes for Gary Johnson is not going to be success, in 2012, by the only metric that matters — winning states so you can win ecVotes.

    That said, I agree with you that 1m votes for Gary *is* a win for the libertarian party, and for the liberty-movement more generally, especially if Gary runs for NM senate in 2014, and then runs for president again (as a libertarian or as a liberty-movement republican like Ron Paul) when 2016 rolls around. So I’m hoping to be pleased with Gary’s 2012 performance — it will help him next cycle.

    My prediction is that 1m for Gary is a bare minimum, even though it’s double what the usual libertarian candidate gets… because Gary Johnson is *way* better than the typical offering on the libertarian ticket. He also has more money, which helps. Best of all, since many of his positions are the same as those held by Ron Paul, he can siphon off some of the much larger credibility-budget and campaign-budget of the Ron Paul 2012 campaign, further boosting the votes-per-dollar ratio for Gary.

    Bad day, Gary– gets 1m votes for $2.5m, which is $2.50/vote (Barr).
    Meh day, Gary gets 2m votes for $2.5m, which is $1.25/vote (Baldwin).
    Good day, Gary++ gets 3m votes for $2.5m, which is $0.85/vote (RonP).
    Great day, Gary# gets 4m(+) votes for $2.5m, which is <$0.60/vote (RonP++).

    Looking at it another way, Gary has been mentioned in some three-way and four-way polls recently, in which he does *dramatically* better than Jill Stein. He also has a lot more money to burn than her, of course. Either way, based on historic votes for the Green Party, we would expect Jill to get ~700k votes… and with his poll & cash multipliers, that would mean Gary ought to get 2m votes, maybe 3m.

    Finally, in national polls (which are useless for figuring out presidential winners since all that matters is ecVotes… but in this particular case where we're trying to predict national popvote percentages for satisfying FEC regulation thresholds they matter), we can see that Gary is getting 2% to 7% of nat'l popvote LV polls… with most values in the 3% and 4% plus sometimes 5% outcomes. There will prolly be 130m voter turnout in 2012, plus or minus a tenth, which means Gary might get 4m or 5m votes, if the election were held today. And it's being held on Tuesday!

    Anyways, I predict 3m votes for Gary, but I hope he gets 4m, or even more. This isn't enough to get the libertarian party over the 5% threshold, but then, it's not very libertarian to take federal payouts of taxpayer-funding for campaign cash, right? As for 2014, with his newfound national pseudo-fame among the politically savvy, plus his two terms as governor there, I expect Gary Johnson to be a shoo-in for the 2014 R-NM senate primaries, and whip the dem in the general election. Gary's only in his fifties, and will be 67 by the time 2016 rolls around… Mitt is 66 this year.

    Gary 3210k, Jill 640k, Virgil 160k, Rocky 80k, Roseanne 40k. (Ron Paul will prolly get better than 50k… maybe better than 100k… but I think most of his pauliticians will be voting for Gary. Unfortunately, my guess is most of the leftover Nader folks will hold their noses and vote for Obama, rather than Gary or Rocky or Jill.)

    p.s. Remember folks, if you live in one of the ten swing-states this year (like FL… that whole spoiler thing in 2000), then the lesser-weevil rule applies. However, the more important message, because it's rarely if ever mentioned, is that if you do not happen to reside in a swing-state, and instead live in one of the forty non-swing-states, then the lesser-weevil rule CANNOT POSSIBLY APPLY to your vote.

    This is particularly obvious for the 5M california repubs, and the 4M texas dems. CA is giving all their ecVotes to Obama. Therefore, if you are a CA reput, why not vote for Gary/Virgil/Rocky? Nothing you do will hurt Mitt, except maybe his feelings. Similarly, TX is giving all their ecVotes to Mitt, so dems in TX ought to feel free to vote for Gary/Jill/Rocky/Roseanne, because it cannot possibly hurt Obama (except his tender feelings).

    Bottom line, half the voters in almost every state, not counting swing-states, can use their prez-vote to send a message forward to 2016 — if enough people do it, not only will Gary set a popvote record for libertarians, but maybe the twin-party nominees in 2016 won't be such *evil* twins, eh? Think it over. Tell your friends.

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