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CSPG Report: The Third Party Impact in 2008

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The Center for the Study of Politics and Governance has released a report studying the potential impact third parties may have on the 2008 presidential race. From the report:

"Third parties may determine the outcome of the 2008 presidential contest between the presumptive Democratic and Republican Party candidates, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. Careful review of recent presidential and statewide elections reveals two central findings that may provide the key to the 2008 presidential race:

· Third party candidates have enjoyed persistent success in gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections since the 1990s. These results may be leading indicators of voter inclination to vote for a third party presidential candidate.

· Third party candidates may impact the Obama-McCain contest by shaping the debate and, more dramatically, by playing King Maker by capitalizing on third party successes in as many as 28 state-wide races in 2006.

The report, co-authored by Center Director Larry Jacobs and Smart Politics' Eric Ostermeier, examines how third parties played King Maker in 17 gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races from 1998 through 2006 (a third party is 'King Maker' when it receives more votes than the margin of victory and the losing major party was ideologically related to the King Maker (e.g. Libertarian/Republican; Green/Democrat)).

The report details that while Democrats fear the "Nader effect" from 2000, Libertarians have denied numerous GOP victories in statewide races over the years (e.g. Maria Cantwell's 2000 U.S. Senate victory in Washington, Jon Tester's 2006 Senate victory in Montana). From the report:

In the 2002 South Dakota U.S. Senate election, the 3,070 votes for Libertarian candidate Kurt Evans were enough to upend Republican John Thune’s effort to beat Democrat Tim Johnson. When it became apparent that Evans might tip the race to Johnson, the Libertarian actually dropped out of the race in mid-October 2002 and endorsed Thune, stating, “I’ve suspended my campaign and endorsed John Thune in the race for the U.S. Senate. I’ve always had more agreements than disagreements with Congressman Thune on the issues.? Nonetheless, Johnson prevailed thanks to lingering statewide support for Evans.

The attention to Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr has increased in recent weeks after two surveys by InsiderAdvantage found him polling at 6 and 4 percent in his home (deep red) state of Georgia, causing McCain's lead to fall within the poll's margin of error.

The full report can be found here: http://politicsandgovernance.org/reports/2008/Third_Party_Impact.pdf

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1 Comment


  • It seems to me that Libertarian party has been created as a shadow of one of the leading party. On one hand this kind of party shold exist to show that there are not only leaders n politics. But on the other hand it makes the leader stronger when it is nacessary. Anyway it's very diificult to say where the truth is in politics.

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    Remains of the Data

    Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

    Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

    Political Crumbs

    Haugh to Reach New Heights

    The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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