Last Updated:November 29 @ 05:55 pm

Tiny presence, unknown impact for 3rd parties


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode are blips in the presidential race. They have little money, aren't on stage for presidential debates and barely register in the polls - when survey takers even bother to list them as options.

Yet in a tight race between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney that likely will be won or lost at the margins, even blips can be a big deal.

Obama's campaign has quietly been tracking the two former Republican officeholders who could be pivotal in key states. Romney's campaign insists it's not worried, even though Republican allies have failed to keep them off state ballots.

Johnson is the Libertarian Party nominee; Goode the Constitution Party candidate.

"At the end of the day this is a two-person race as we're factoring things in like vote goals, turnout," Romney political director Rich Beeson said. "We take it into account, but I can't say I stay up at night thinking about what Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode is going to do."

Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, has qualified for the ballot in 48 states. Goode, a conservative ex-congressman from Virginia, is on ballots in about 25 states. Their standing matters most in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia - states Obama captured four years ago and that Romney has worked feverishly to convert.

In 2008, more than 2 million voters chose someone other than Obama or Republican nominee John McCain. In all but a few states, the winner's margin was so decisive that a third-party bleed-off was hardly worth noting. Obama's electoral college rout made it even less consequential.

This year's race has shaped up to be tighter. It has hallmarks of 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader drew finger-pointing from the left as a difference-maker between Republican George W. Bush's victory and Democrat Al Gore's loss given the excruciatingly close Florida finish. Jill Stein, this year's Green Party nominee, is viewed as far less of a potential factor than the two right-of-center hopefuls, Goode and Johnson.

With fewer paths to a White House win than Obama, Romney especially can't afford to surrender votes in battleground states.

In Virginia, his biggest threat is Goode, who could bite into Romney's right flank with a campaign appealing to voters who want to stem legal immigration and crack down harder on those in the country illegally. A Baptist with a Southern drawl who held Virginia political office for more than three decades, Goode presents himself as "a real difference between Romney and Obama."

Elsewhere, Johnson is the one to watch, though he could pose difficulties for both major party contenders.

The handyman-turned-politician proudly brags of setting veto records to block spending during two terms as governor. Occasionally donning a peace-sign shirt under his blazer, Johnson has blitzed college campuses with a message aimed at the anti-war, pro-drug legalization crowd that Texas Rep. Ron Paul cultivated in his GOP presidential run. Paul took a respectable share of the vote in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Paul has yet to endorse anyone in the race, and may not. Meanwhile, Romney has tried to heal fractures between Paul loyalists and the Republican old guard by deploying his former rival's son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, to campaign events.

New Hampshire state Sen. Andy Sanborn, an adviser to the elder Paul, said Johnson could score with voters at Romney's expense.

"That type of a libertarian candidate will always do well here. I'm hoping frankly that the race isn't close enough that Mr. Johnson will have a material impact in it," said Sanborn, who said he planned to vote for Romney.

Johnson considers himself a headache for both Obama and Romney.

"I'm more conservative than Romney on dollars and cents. I'm more liberal than Obama when it comes to social issues," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Johnson's support for gay marriage, eased immigration and a scaling back of government search powers authorized after the Sept. 11 terror attacks make him a wild card in some key states.

One is North Carolina, where Obama prevailed in 2008 by a slim 14,000 votes. Some 40,000 votes were cast for minor party candidates or write-ins, with Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr getting most of them. Michael Munger, the party's nominee for North Carolina governor the same year, doubted Johnson would have as much of a one-sided effect as the conservative hard-liner Barr.

"I actually think there's sort of a gentleman's agreement about Gary Johnson that neither party brings him up because it takes votes from both sides. In 2008, the Democrats mentioned Bob Barr," Munger said. "They worked to remind people of the fact Bob Barr was in it and real conservatives might want to consider him."

In Colorado, Johnson has aligned himself with a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Democratic strategist Rick Ridder, a Denver-based veteran of presidential campaigns, said some Democratic activists are supporting Johnson because of his stance on the referendum. But he thinks most voters passionate about making the drug legal to possess will send a message through the proposition itself and make other calculations on the presidential race.

Goode is also on Colorado's ballot. That's notable because two years ago former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo finished second in the race for governor under the American Constitution Party's banner.



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  1. CarmineComment by Carmine
    October 5, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    People who are thinking of voting for either of the two people should reconsider. While there is merit in making your voice known by voting for minor a party, and I must admit there are items in the platforms of both of these parties I agree with, neither of these men has a snowballs chance in a blast furnace of getting elected. Since they are both conservative types all they will do is pull votes from Romney. Normally it doesn’t make any difference if you want to vote for a third party candidate. But in this election, unless you want to have more of Obama’s so called leadership, you really have no choice. You must vote for Romney to keep Obama from getting re-elected.

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    • belankComment by belank
      October 6, 2012 @ 7:23 am

      What a huge load of cra*! Anybody who votes “to keep xxx from getting elected/re-elected” is wasting their vote.

      Your approach is exactly why nothing ever changes, regardless of which party’s candidate(s) gets in and/or goes out. If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing you’re going to get what you’ve been getting. Duh!

      Gawd, I wish there was a cure for stupidity.

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    • cdrcodyComment by cdrcody
      October 7, 2012 @ 12:36 am

      belank – Normally you would be right about voting just to keep someone from being elected. But this election is a special case. Looking at the quality of the two major candidates it becomes fairly obvious the choice that has to be made. People say they won’t vote for Romney because he is an unkown quantity. But we know what Obama is. He has increased the debt from 10T to 16T in four years. If he gets re-elected we can expect at least that much more, unless there is a Republican Congress. A second credit rating agency has already downgraded the country twice this year, even though you may not have heard of it, thanks to the news media, our public watch dogs.

      From CNBC Published: Friday, 14 Sep 2012 | 3:43 PM ET

      Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to “AA-” from “AA,” citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve would hurt the U.S. economy and the country’s credit quality.

      The Fed on Thursday said it would pump $40 billion into the U.S.
      economy each month until it saw a sustained upturn in the weak jobs market.
      (Read more: Fed’s ‘QE Infinity’ — Four Things That Could Go Wrong)

      In its downgrade, the firm said that issuing more currency and
      depressing interest rates through purchasing mortgage-backed
      securities does little to raise the U.S.’s real gross domestic
      product, but reduces the value of the dollar.

      In April, Egan-Jones cuts the U.S. credit rating to “AA” from “AA+” with a negative watch, citing a lack of progress in cutting the mounting federal debt.

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  2. rrg51Comment by rrg51
    October 5, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    Unfortunately, they’ll vote on principle and p**s their vote away, potentially allowing the worst option. I believe that WFB encouraged us to find the best option who could actually win and push for him/her.

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  3. rriderComment by Richard Rider
    October 5, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

    I’m a former LP activist now reasonably comfortably ensconced in the California GOP. This November I will be voting for the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson — especially since my vote “doesn’t count” in the Golden State.

    Obama will sweep this state with well over a million vote victory, and 100% of our Electoral College votes go to him.

    Hence I’m free to vote FOR a candidate, rather than vote for the lesser evil. IF I lived in a swing state, I’d have to reassess.

    I’m no Romney fan, but Obama is a a walking, talking national disaster. Indeed, I contribute to Romney’s campaign, understanding that the money will almost all be spent in the crucial swing states.

    Consider your state’s politics, and how it handles the Electoral College vote. Then you can make an intelligent decision about how to vote — if you lean towards a third party alternative.

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  4. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    October 5, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    Is my choice for president running? No. I voted to get him on the ticket but he lost to this yankee. We tried to get the people to see he was the best candidate but they wouldn’t listen to true conservatives. Do I cry in my coffee now? No. Romney won the spot so he gets my backing in order to get that illegal alien out of office. If he doesn’t do his job properly he will not get another term. At least with him in the whitehouse, those limp wristed mollycoddlers in congress my find the courage to impeach him.

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    • louis31Comment by louis31
      October 8, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

      Thomas Jefferson and George Washington did not believe in a two party system. They’d have voted principle over party and switched to a third party if the one they were in no longer reflected their views!

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  5. louis31Comment by louis31
    October 8, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    Vote your principles. The Republican Party has been slowly being infiltrated by elitist liberals who call themselves conservatives. In New York City the Republican Party is made up of warmed over Democrat Party pols who could not get on the Demorcrat ticket. Giuliani, Koch, Lindsay..all former Dems who switched sides but kept the same policies. Now I have seen this going on nationwide. Romney has been talking a good game but having lived for the last decade in New Hampshire, I had a good look at Romney as governor of Mass..
    Years of him crying “I am not a conservative”. Years of Mass. residents escaping to NH to escape his ever increasing tax burden, Mass becoming a virtual sanctuary state for illegal aliens where they do not even prosecute them for driving without licenses or insurance, ( Tune in to He is a Boston radio host who has an almost daily feature reporting on unlicensed illegals with dozens of violations who, driving without licenses with impunity, mow down pedestrians. If you were a citizen you’d be in jail not on the road), granting state id numbers to illegal aliens with the same number of digits as SS numbers so that they can work without Visas. Yup that’s a conservative! Guess who wrote the prototype for Obamacare? Where is my conservative candidate? Where is my Amerca’s business is business, isolationist who avoids foreign wars that don’t involve the USA kind of Rrepublican?
    Calvin Coolidge! Wendell Wilkie! Where are you? If the Dems are running Mussolini and the Republicans are running Hitler, should I vote for the lesser of the two evils if a third party is running Barry Goldwater? Perhaps if enough conservatives had the cajones to vote for someone who sticks to conservative principles, we’d drive these darn rinos back to the Democrat Party where they belong instead of letting us continue to slide down that slippery slope with the incline descending to the left.

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