No Third Party Candidate Can Win the Presidency

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Speculation
has been rampant for months that, if someone other than Ron Paul
secures the GOP nomination by the end of the primary season, Ron
may continue his presidential campaign as an Independent or third-party candidate.

This seems
to be mostly due to his refusal to deny such a possibility in so
many words, despite the fact that he always states, with his refusal
to deny, that also he has no plans to do that. I believe he’s sincere,
and is weighing his words carefully only because a wise person tries
not to make absolute guarantees about the future — no matter how
certain he is at the time — because the future is unknowable and
things can always change in ways that one can’t foresee beforehand.

However, cynics
— and passionate supporters who don’t want the dream of a President
Paul to die — remain convinced that Ron has already decided to continue
his campaign, and he’s denying it just to not hurt his chances at
the GOP nomination.

The GOP
Race

Ron has stated
that, when people close to him in late-2006 noticed that a "perfect
storm" seemed to be brewing for him to possibly be elected
— because of such things as growing voter discontent over the Iraq
War, the neocons’ belligerent foreign policy and the erosion of
civil liberties since 9/11; and the fact that there was no GOP candidate
even spouting phony libertarian-sounding rhetoric — and he reluctantly
agreed to explore the possibility of running, he intended only to
run if he felt that it was within the realm of reality that he could
get elected.

He had no
interest in running a campaign just to educate people or to make
a point, as he did well in 1988 as the Libertarian Party’s candidate.
He had even stated repeatedly since that campaign that he had no
intention of ever running for president again (see — unforeseen
circumstances can cause sincere people to change their minds), and
he had refused repeated attempts over the past 20 years to draft
him for another run, either as a third-party candidate or as a Republican.

Ron’s
latest message
should put to rest once and for all any thoughts
of him running as a third-party candidate. His message verified
much of my speculation in my
previous article
: Ron believes that there will be a brokered
convention, and he clearly has an elaborate strategy in place to
accumulate enough delegates to wage a real fight for the nomination
at the convention.

One point
I forgot in my previous article is that, with all of the attention
focused on Super Tuesday, people forget that about half of the states
still have contests after that day. If we leave Super Tuesday
without a nominee, and especially if we leave without even one front-runner
— which seems likely – that point becomes extremely important,
because it means the race is still wide open. We’re likely to be
down to Romney, McCain and Paul immediately after that day; in that
case, Ron will face about half of the state contests with only two
opponents — and McCain may not have the money to advertise much
in any of those states. It’s even possible Romney or McCain could
also quit next week if one pulls significantly ahead of the other,
leaving Ron with only one opponent.

Another important
point is many states aren’t winner-take-all; runners-up still accumulate
delegates. And, with only one or two opponents on the ballot, how
badly can Ron do in the post–Super Tuesday states?

Yet another
point, which Ron addressed in his latest message, is that many candidates
who had accumulated delegates will have dropped out by the convention,
which means those delegates can decide at the convention whom to
support instead.

But let’s
assume that all of this is wrong, and we have a nominee by the end
of the primaries — and it’s not Ron Paul. If that happens, speculation
about a third-party run will accelerate.

A Third
Party Run

If Ron loses
the GOP nomination, and the events of the past year have caused
him to change his mind and run as an Independent or third-party
candidate — which will mean he’s changed his mind about only running
to win, that’s his business, and I will still be proud to support
him and to vote for him in November.

But, if that
happens, understand that the Paul campaign will have shifted from
a campaign to spread libertarian ideals in an effort to win the
presidency in 2008, to a campaign to spread libertarian ideals to
attain various goals, some of which will be ill-defined, and which
may or may not be achieved at some indeterminate point in the future.

Not that there’s
anything wrong with that.

I was introduced
to libertarianism, as many were, by Harry Browne’s 1996 Libertarian
presidential campaign. Since then, literally every area of my life
has been massively improved by Harry’s work, and it will forever
be one of the greatest honors and joys of my life that I got to
know him and have contact with him as much as I did. I will love
that man until the day I die.

If it weren’t
for that campaign, I also wouldn’t know many of the other people
I’ve met in the movement, nor would I have been exposed to the work
of so many others who have taught me and improved my life — including
that I wouldn’t have the honor of knowing Lew Rockwell or of writing
this article and seeing it published.

Many others,
including Ron 20 years ago, have run third-party presidential campaigns
that were futile in terms of their chances for electoral victory,
but which touched the lives of thousands of people — and undoubtedly
gave the candidate various personal benefits as well, such as bolstered
celebrity and future income, and a warm feeling of personal achievement.

That’s all
well and good. This article isn’t meant to discourage Ron from running
as an Independent or third-party candidate if he chooses to; I certainly
don’t have to explain to him what his chances of being elected are
in that situation. Nor is it intended to discourage anyone from
supporting him in such a run. My intent is to explain to any nave,
but well-meaning, people that no one is going to be elected president
as a third-party candidate in the foreseeable future — and probably
ever.

A Third
Party Candidate Can’t Win the Presidency

If Ron chooses
to run, here are the main reasons that everyone needs to understand,
as Ron does, that a third-party candidate is not going to be elected
president. If he chooses to run anyway and you understand what he’s
trying to accomplish, you won’t be disappointed when he loses.

1. The mainstream
media blackout

There’s no
question in my mind that, based on what Ron has been able to accomplish
in spite of the mainstream media blackout, if he had received as
much coverage as the Establishment’s anointed candidates, he would
be far and away the front-runner now.

Here are the
figures for last week from media tracking firm VMS. Bear in mind
that these numbers reflect a time when Ron was a sitting Congressman
running for a major-party nomination, that he raised significantly
more money last quarter than any of his opponents — including setting
an all-time one-day fundraising record, and had crushed former anointed
front-runner Rudy Giuliani — whom the media still insists is a viable
candidate — in nearly every state so far: Yet last week, the mainstream
media:

  • Gave John
    McCain 85 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Rudy
    Giuliani 69 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Mitt
    Romney 59 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Mike
    Huckabee 32 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Fred
    Thompson 25 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Barack
    Obama 207 times more coverage than Ron Paul
  • Gave Hillary
    Clinton 202 times more coverage than Ron Paul

And Ron got
more attention in the fourth quarter, after he raised $5 million
in the third quarter, than he had previously — and the attention
accelerated after his two huge fundraising days later in the fourth
quarter. That means last week’s figures, as bad as they are, represent
an increase over the amount of coverage he received earlier
last year.

And the extra
coverage he’s received in the past three months is probably more
than every Libertarian Party candidate for president in history
— combined (which isn’t a knock on any of those candidates, because
it wasn’t their fault; it’s just the way the system is).

But, as you
can see from the numbers, even his increased coverage is still appallingly
abysmal.

And, as a
sitting Congressman, he has been in every debate and has had memorable
exchanges with all of the Establishment front-runners — despite
being the victim of mini-blackouts during the debates, being asked
by far the fewest questions, being given by far the least amount
of time to speak, and often being treated rudely and being subjected
to deliberate, repeated attempts in each debate to make him look
bad.

With bias
like this, it’s a miracle that Ron has even accomplished what he
has. It’s also a testament to him, and even more so to the power
of the liberty message and to the power of the Internet to change
the world.

These facts
beg the following question about the idea of him winning the presidency
as a third-party candidate: if those hurdles prove insurmountable
for the GOP race, then what makes you think he can win the presidency
as a third-party candidate? The media pays almost no attention to
him now; they’ll have every reason to pay even less attention
to him as a third-party candidate. Most third-party candidates don’t
get much more than one obligatory interview per media outlet — even
if they’re minor celebrities.

2. A candidate
must be at an average of 15% in selected national polls to get into
the debates.

Again, his
treatment by the media, as bad as it has been, has still been far
better than what he’ll get for a third-party run.

And, despite
that comparatively good treatment, he so far has never polled at
15% nationally, nor has he received 15% of the vote in any state
but Louisiana. He’s likely to do better in future states as the
field narrows, but if he doesn’t and he loses the nomination, what
makes you think he can get to 15% in the polls as a third-party
candidate and get into the debates, which is a necessary precondition
to winning (and even then he’ll almost certainly still lose)?

Yes, his message
will resonate more with Democrats, Independents, third-party members,
apathetics and apoliticals than with the hardcore GOP base that
still supports Bush, so that could theoretically help his poll standing
for the general election, compared to how he fared with the hardcore
GOP base for the primaries. But it won’t matter if those people
don’t hear it because the media doesn’t cover him.

And yes, the
Internet will help significantly to spread the message, but it won’t
be enough if it also wasn’t enough to overcome a less severe mainstream
media blackout in the GOP race.

3. The ballot
access laws are biased against third parties.

Third-party
candidates have to spend a significant portion of the money they
raise collecting signatures to get their names on state ballots.
Plus they have to spend what’s left buying almost all of their exposure
through advertising, while the major-party candidates receive an
incalculable amount of free advertising from the media — this means
that, while all candidates are subject to the same fundraising restrictions,
it doesn’t affect the major candidates in the same way. As Harry
Browne commented about his two campaigns, the campaign finance laws
make building support for third parties, almost all of which has
to be bought through advertising, like trying to fill a swimming
pool with a teaspoon.

Conclusion

Let
me reiterate that I’m not discouraging Ron from running as a third-party or Independent candidate; if he chooses to, that’s his business.
I’ll still support him — but with the understanding that, barring
some incredible miracle, he can’t win that way. If you also choose
to support him in such a run, you need to understand that too; otherwise,
you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and disillusionment.

So be grateful
that the GOP race is still wide open.

January
30, 2008

Johnny Kramer
[send him mail]
holds a BA in journalism from Wichita State University and is available
for hire as a writer and copyeditor. See his
website
.

Johnny
Kramer Archives

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