While election officials continued counting the ballots cast during the 2020 presidential election, some Republican strategists question whether the votes for third party candidates may have closed the gap between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in key states.
Neither candidate had enough votes to finish the race by Friday evening, although Biden was ahead both in terms of electoral college and popular vote. A handful of swing states were still standing for election on Friday, and in some cases the number of votes cast for Liberal Party presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen exceeded the gap between Biden and Trump.
“Liberal voters could have swung the electoral college by at least 22 votes if they had supported Trump in the contested states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada,” political strategist Ryan Cassin told Fox News. “By throwing away their votes, they have probably become spoilers for the Trump re-election”.
Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker specifically pointed to his state as a place where Jorgensen’s vote count exceeded the Biden-Trump spread. “If it holds, the @LPNational candidate in Wisconsin received 38,000 votes, and the gap between @JoeBiden and @realDonaldTrump is less than 21,000 votes,” Walker twittered. The Associated Press called the state on Wednesday for Biden, with less than 21,000 votes remaining between Biden and Trump by Friday night. Meanwhile, more than 38,000 voters cast their votes for Jorgensen, according to the AP election results.
In Georgia and Pennsylvania, the votes cast for Jorgensen on Friday night also exceeded the Biden-Trump spread, and in Arizona, the vote count was within striking distance.
Jorgensen himself put aside the idea that third-party candidates would receive votes from the two major parties.
“I don’t consider it voting because those votes belong to the American electorate,” Jorgensen told CNBC. She added that her party’s research indicates that it receives support in elections primarily from independents and first-time voters.
“Liberals are not adjuncts to the Democratic or Republican parties, and we tend to let them both blame us if they lose,” Libertarian Party Chairman Joe Bishop-Henchman said in an e-mail to Washington Newsday. “If a candidate cannot win over Libertarians, the answer is not to limit voters’ choices, but to nominate better candidates who address libertarian issues,” Joe Bishop-Henchman said in an e-mail to Washington Newsday.
So far, Jorgensen has more than 1.7 million votes in the 2020 election, or about 1.2 percent of the total number of votes cast. Her performance is the second best of any Libertarian Party presidential candidate since Gary Johnson received more than 3 percent of the vote in 2016.
“Despite the corona virus that is complicating the election campaign and a media blackout of our candidates, it is not bad to win the support of one in 90 Americans,” said Bishop Henchman. “We also elected our first state legislature in a generation and a number of local officials, and we will continue to build on that and win more next time.
Third-party candidates are often criticized by Democrats and Republicans who say they are luring voters away from the major party candidates. The last time a president who was neither Democrat nor Republican was in office was Millard Fillmore, a member of the Whig Party, who rose to the presidency in 1850 after the death of Zachary Taylor. The greatest attraction of a third candidate in a recent presidential campaign was Ross Perot, who won more than 18 percent of the vote in 1992. Twenty years ago, another third-party candidate had a significant impact on the 2000 presidential race, when Ralph Nader of the Greens won more than 2 percent of the vote in a close race between Democratic candidate Al Gore and eventual Republican president George W. Bush.
Dan Lee, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, pointed to Jorgensen’s performance and that of Johnson four years ago as examples of how lack of investment in key party candidates affected third-party voters. “People were generally dissatisfied with politics in general. The time was ripe for a third-party candidate,” Lee said of the 2016 election.
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