Barney Bishop: Third Party Candidates May Impact Biden-Trump Rematch in 2024
With the continuing onslaught of polls, everyday Americans are learning what other Americans think about the looming presidential election, which is less than a year out.
While these polls are fascinating and interesting, they only represent a snapshot of what the electorate is thinking at the point in time of the survey. This is why we enjoy the polls so much. Each of us, regardless of our political affinity, can find a silver lining that reaffirms our core political beliefs.
For example, the latest polls indicate, if the election were held today, that former President Donald Trump is beating President Joe Biden in five of the six swing states. For those of us who seek a conservative president in 2024, these polls help allay our fears of Biden being reelected and the continuing diminution of our country.
But juxtapose this week’s election results in Virginia and Kentucky and we can easily surmise that nothing is linear in American politics. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., lost his opportunity to flip the state Senate to a GOP majority and the GOP state House flipped back to the Democrats. Youngkin will have less juice going forward in that state’s one-term limited governorship. In Kentucky, where every other statewide office is held by Republicans, Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Ky., bucked the numbers and won reelection by a five percent margin against a heavy onslaught by the GOP.
So, what does this mixed bag of results really tell us?That American politics is unpredictable.
The biggest mistake that all political pundits are making right now is the assumption that the presidency will be a race between Trump and Biden. It will be, and it won’t be.
It will be as Trump and Biden are likely to be nominees for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Biden is unwilling to defer to a younger generation, and Trump will be the nominee even if he is imprisoned, which isn’t likely in any event, no matter how hard Biden and the Democrats try to paint him as a “criminal” or a “danger to democracy.”
But it won’t be just these two candidates on the ballot. Sure, every four years, there are a litany of gadflies and half-serious candidates on the ballot in many of the states, and most of the time, these other candidates don’t affect the electoral outcome.
However, there are historical truths in which third-party candidates helped one side win versus the other.
The most famous was the election of 1912 when Progressive Party candidate and former President Theodore Roosevelt ran against President William Howard Taft--which led to Woodrow Wilson being elected president, only the second Democrat to win the White House since 1860.
Take Ross Perot in 1992 against then-Gov. Bill Clinton, D-Ark., and then-President George H.W. Bush. Perot secured 19 percent of the national vote – the highest vote for a third-party candidate in 80 years. Many believe his candidacy cost the first President Bush a second term.
The 2000 race for president was the closest in history and it all came down to Florida and whether Al Gore or George W. Bush won the vote. Some believe that third-party candidate Ralph Nader played a role in Gore’s defeat. Bush won by just 600 votes in Florida, as Nader had siphoned off almost 100,000 votes from the Gore column. The rest is history.
A year out, the 2024 election looks destined to be another nail-biter, and not just because it’s a redux of Biden and Trump and the fact that most Americans collectively would like to see each party’s candidate selection changed.
Once again, there are discordant waves going on with potential and some already-declared third-party candidates that have the real potential of altering the eventual outcome for the presidency.
Perhaps the most dangerous of the third-party efforts will be the “No Labels Common Sense” bipartisan group of former elected officials who hear the rumblings of Americans and think it is time for a third way. That could mean that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was dissed by the Dems because they need Biden to have a straight shot at reelection and thus have thrown up significant roadblocks that can’t be overcome if he remains a Democratic candidate, who could be the No Labels standard bearer. RFK Jr. is also flirting with the Libertarians and could run as an independent.
Simultaneously, the group is whispering in U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s, D-WV, ear that he too could be their candidate. While Manchin hasn’t yet he will throw his hat into the ring for president, it is very possible now that he has bowed out for running for another term in the Senate.
Either a Kennedy or a Manchin candidacy, or wait for it, wait…a Kennedy-Manchin or Manchin-Kennedy ticket could perhaps offer broad appeal to a part of the electoral base that is looking for a bipartisan approach to governing or simply an alternative to the same old two guys that are running now. Other potential candidates like former Gov. Jon Huntsman, R-Utah, and former Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Mary., could also carry the banner for No Labels in 2024.
No one knows if No Labels will be able to pull it off, but what do Kennedy or Manchin or whoever have to lose by teaming up to offer a substantial alternative to the status quo?
There are other announced candidates that could also impact the presidential race in unforeseen ways. Cornel West comes to mind immediately and he may well draw some African American and progressive, liberal votes from the Democratic column and perhaps from some Republican voters with his distinct brand.
All of this to say that the 2024 election is not just about Democrats versus Republicans. Party loyalty is already seriously frayed with independent registered voters continuing to increase to 49 percent of all American voters and they will be the swing electorate in deciding the national winner.
In the final analysis, the Democratic Party is between the proverbial dog and the fire hydrant. They have an old, feeble, and increasingly out-of-touch candidate in the incumbent, while the Republicans, if Trump is nominated, have a narcissistic retread that only allows in his inner circle people that agree with his narrow view of the world. This is why Americans are troubled by the Hobson’s choice they are left with.
The next time you see or hear about a national poll realize that it’s not just a two-person race. It’s a race ultimately with other somewhat viable candidates that will appeal to some part of the electorate. The question is, will they appeal enough to upset the applecart and deliver the presidency to one of the two major political party candidates? If that happens, the outcome will probably favor Trump, as Biden has more to lose from these third-party candidates.
One final reminder on polls. The most valuable polls are those that survey “voters likely to vote.” If you read a poll that is from “all voters” or just “registered voters,,” that represents a general survey with little likelihood of accuracy at the ballot box because likely voters are the ones who will actually go to the polls.
Barney Bishop III is a native Floridian and a conservative who is now a registered Republican. An avid student of politics since college, he is a registered lobbyist, a former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party, and a serial entrepreneur having started his third company, Barney Bishop Consulting LLC. He has authored conservative columns for the past 20+ years on a variety of political topics. He can be reached at Barney@BarneyBishop.com