Third Parties: 2012 Election’s Critical Missing Piece

In the wake of the Iowa straw poll – a particularly charming incarnation of the poll tax– and the late entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the news media is telling us that that the 2012 presidential field is starting to congeal.

Except that it’s not. Not even close. Because we don’t yet know what will happen with third parties. In the end, third parties might very well impact the selection of the next President more than the outcome of the GOP primaries and caucuses that are dominating the news.

At a time when the American electrate is about evenly divided between the two major political parties, and huge numbers are turned off by both parties, this 2012 presidential election could hinge on which third party, or parties, emerges to relative prominence. If it’s a liberal-friendly third party ticket that dominates the third party space in 2012, Obama will almost certainly lose. If it’s a conservative-friendly third party dominating, Obama could still pull it out, despite the environmental mega-trends – lack of peace or prosperity — working against his reelection.

A third party ticket led by Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Donald Trump or their ilk looms on the right, and a ticket led by Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders or their ilk looms on the left. I’m as interested in those melodramas as I am about the more high profile Perry, Bachmann, Romney scrum.

And beyond the third party machinations on the left and right fringes, keep your eyes on a new third party wild card this year – Americans Elect. Americans Elect looks like it will be a centrist party, and is being promoted by center-left voices like syndicated columnist Thomas Friedman. Here is how they explain themselves.

Americans Elect is the first-ever open nominating process. We’re using the Internet to give every single voter—Democrat, Republican or independent—the power to nominate a presidential ticket in 2012. The people will choose the issues. The people will choose the candidates. And in a secure, online convention next June, the people will make history by putting their choice on the ballot in every state.

Americans Elect is a better way to choose a President, not a traditional 3rd party. Our nominating process is open to any qualified candidate and any registered voter—no matter their party. We have no ties to any political group—left, right, or center. We don’t promote any issues, ideology or candidates. None of our funding comes from special interests or lobbyists. Our only goal is to put a directly-nominated ticket on the ballot in 2012.

American voters want leadership that will work together to tackle the challenges facing our country. Americans Elect is open to candidates from any party—and when they choose their running mates, they’ll be required to choose one from a party other than their own. This will help produce candidates that don’t just say they’ll work with the other side, but ones who already are.

If this presumably well-intentioned effort gains prominence, Obama would seem to have the most to lose. In an attempt to woo the ideological middle, Obama has moved to the right of his liberal political base on deficit reduction, entitlement reform, health care reform, the Middle East Wars, and other issues. This would seem to make him better positioned to win swing voters than Bachmann, Romney or Perry, who have been more slavish champions of their party’s ideological fringe. Even if a centrist Americans Elect ticket only gains a net percentage or two of the moderate vote that would otherwise have gone to Obama, that could easily be enough to defeat Obama, and perhaps elect the most conservative president in modern times.

So the Republicans’ straw poll was cute and all, but the third parties quietly organizing in the shadows of the news media klieg lights could easily prove to be the straw that ultimately breaks President’s Obama’s back.

– Loveland

30 thoughts on “Third Parties: 2012 Election’s Critical Missing Piece

  1. Gary Pettis says:

    After reading this post by Loveland, I immediately went to the online version of the Magic 8 ball and submitted this question:

    Will there be a major third-party candidate for United States president in 2011?

    Answer: Definitely.

    My own prediction is that this person will come from left field and farther left than center than Obama due to the number of abandoned liberal social issues left at a doorstep by the President and his administration.

    30 Navy Seals were killed more than a week ago in Afghanistan and absolutely not a reported peep from the antiwar crowd such as Code Pink and Women Against Military Madness. A lot of pent up anger and frustration no doubt in those circles.

    Sometimes it might be better to go down in flames to prove a point, than it is to actually do something sane for the country and win. Many disenfranchised liberals might have their energies ready to be released to make a point.

    In that case, Obama loses.

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      I think you’re correct, Gary. Lots of frustrated liberals would love to cast a protest vote, and there probably will be some attention starved has-been who will seek their limelight.

      But a conservative third party challenge also seems very possible, mostly because the Tea Partiers don’t ever seem content. Any little perceived moderation from the Republicans could easily lead to Tea Partiers rebelling against the Republican ticket. There seems to be an endless stream of opportunistic politicians anxious to whip Tea Partiers into a protest frenzy, and any one of those could also go third party.

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        Back to the crystal ball: Michelle Bachmann (or someone very much like her but not Sarah Palin) will receive the nomination to run as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. Talking points to be repeated over and over again:

        “Third Time’s a Charm”

        “Who better to break the glass ceiling than a Republican!”

        “Tea Party and Republican Party unifier.”

        From this view of the world, Perry will get the nod to run as president. Romney will give one great speech at the convention and campaign for the Republican ticket. Pawlenty will be at the convention holding up the vice presidential candidate’s arm when the balloons drop (presuming it’s Bachmann). If Palin goes third-party, she torpedoes her legacy, which so far has been profitable for her. Ain’t going to happen.

        Everything is to the right beyond center. It will be a battle to beat Obama, not a fight for the middle ground.

        No moderate Republican will have a chance to make an impact as a third-party candidate, because he or she will be forced to say, “President Obama was correct in his policies at least half of the time.” So, why bother?

        In sum, Perry, Republican right, and Bachmann, Tea Party favorite. It’s a unifying ticket. If Obama’s approval ratings continue to tank as they are, having a woman run for vice president will be a non-issue this time around.

      2. Gary Pettis says:


        Heat from the far left is about to be turned up to hotter temperatures.

        Maxine Waters on Obama: We’re Gettin’ Tired Y’all

  2. Ellen says:

    You may have this right, Gary. Bachmann would be a good “fit” for number 2 to a man. (Submit, you know.) As I tried to tell this crowd a long time ago, don’t underestimate Bachmann.

    I appreciate Andy Borowitz’ report of what happened in Iowa. He says the majority of Iowans who voted for Bachmann thought they were voting for Batman. He also says Pawlenty decided to bow out after polling discovered he had only 3% name recognition from members of his immediate family.

    1. PM. says:

      Bachmann/Batman, whats the difference?

      Seriously, Bachmann/Perry are the crazy Christian wing of the party–a sure way to lose the catholic vote. Kiss the Reagan Democrat’s goodbye!

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        In résponse to PM’s lament about Reagan Democrats, I think that it is good that we revisit the definition of a Reagan Democrat. What is one? What does one stand for?

        Here’s a sampling from none other than Wikipedia:

        *Moderate Democrats who are more conservative than liberal on certain issues like national security and immigration.

        (Didn’t Harry Reid propose big cuts to the military as part of the recent budget deal? Isn’t illegal immigration an issue that has got a lot of lip service from the current administration, but there’s been no resolution?)

        Check out the findings by pollster Stan Greenberg.

        If you think Reagan Democrats are going to help pull Obama from his free fall, think again

      2. Gary Pettis says:


        Let’s put your comment here under the microscope for a moment and focus the lens:

        1) Reagan and Carter basically split the Catholic vote in Carter’s losing election.


        We should expect the same even split in 2012 because there are some Catholics who are forever Republican and pro-life no matter what.

        2) Report: Catholic Hispanic voters still strong Democrats, but motivation to vote is weak.


        3) Governor Perry has experience working with the Hispanic voter bloc and will sway some traditional Hispanic democrat voters away from Obama.

        4) Hispanics are concerned about fixing immigration and the economy.

        Again, Obama has put the issue of immigration reform on the back burner, and he is nearly three years in to his term. The right Republican message on immigration reform and economy will win the support of more Hispanics than you can imagine.

        This whole notion of the percieved hostility to catholicism from evangelicals (Dominionism, etc.) is so na-na-boo-boo. Catholic voters are ripe for the picking.

      3. Jim Leinfelder says:

        Gary, it’s nether 1980, nor 1984, and, thus, Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have done even as well as Tim Pawlenty did at the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll Iowa GOP Fundraiser; the Reagan of 1980, that is, you know, the one who raised taxes to deal with the staggering deficits he was racking up in his arms race with the Soviets, not the hagiographied version of Reagan so dimly remembered by the Tea Party of 2011.

        The “Reagan Democrats” are not trapped in amber like so many ancient bugs. They, too, have changed along with the times, are probably worried more these days about their Social Security checks and Medicare coverage than keeping up in the arms race.

      4. Gary Pettis says:


        If I read your post right, in reference to “Reagan’s arm race with the Soviets,” it sounds like you would not have spent a single dime of federal government money to contribute to the breaking up of the former Soviet Union, which, by the way, helped make the world a safer place.

        The strategy at the time was to outspend the Soviets in the race for military superiority to drive the Soviets in the ground (RE: Star Wars), and it worked without starting WWIII.

        It’s good to take a look once more at the four pillars of Reagan’s economic policy:

        Reduce Growth of Government spending.
        Reduce Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.
        Reduce Government regulation.
        Control the money supply to reduce inflation.

        To be more like Reagan and less like Carter, Obama should reconstruct these four pillars and embrace them as if they were his own. If not, Democrats are going to take it on the chin in 2012 and as they pick themselves off of the mat, realize they have lost a lot of traction on the social issues they hold so dear, such as immigration reform and abortion rights.


        Good things to know and tell for both you and PM:

      5. Jim Leinfelder says:

        You’re right, Gary, you read my post utterly wrong, as you do the Reagan years if you think he reduced the size of the federal government.

      6. PM. says:

        Gary: regarding your 4 pillars:

        1. two of your four really started under Carter, not Reagan–using the monetary supply to reduce inflation was the result of the plan started by Paul Volker under Carter–it continued under Reagan, but Reagan had nothing to do with either creating it or implementing it. He did take credit for it, of course, but so would any other politician. Deregulation also started under Carter–deregulation of the entire transportation industry was the beginning, but this was something that Carter campaigned on in 1976, and he implemented it.

        2. Reagan did not decrease federal spending. Federal spending as a percentage of GNP was pretty constant and unchanged under Reagan.

        3. Reagan did reduce marginal tax rates for income taxes and capital gains taxes, but he really was not the impetus for this–he cut taxes, then he increased taxes, and then he signed the Bradley-Gephardt Tax Reform Act of 1986, which closed loopholes and reduced rates. Please note the Bradley and Gephardt were democrats.

      7. Gary Pettis says:

        PM and Jim Leinfelder,

        There’s enough information around regarding President Reagan’s record that proves you’re both right in your recent posts. Reagan’s legacy is about back then then, and what’s going on with President Obama is now. It’s the left that has been making the comparisons between Reagan and Obama, hoping that maybe Obama will be a transformational figure like Reagan was. (This video says it all.)

        So I am surprised you both dissed Reagan in your posts because when it comes to Obama, it’s a good talking point to say “more like Reagan; less like Carter.”

        If Obama sees himself to be a Reagan-type, maybe he can show leadership so the price of gas drops, like Reagan did; maybe during his time in office, unemployment drops, like it did under Reagan; and maybe he can help America start feeling good about himself, like it did almost the minute Reagan took the oath of office. (RE: The Iranian hostage situation).

        Reagan’s legacy will also paint him to be a strong leader, while Obama is and will be seen as a lecturing babysitter who has lost control of the children he is suppose to be watching over. Obama’s perceived low ranking on the leadership scale will hurt his chances for a re-election. When a leader’s ability to lead is gone, can it really ever come back . . . or do the folks on the left place less emphasis on the importance of leadership?

        Obama’s base is on the verge of a far-left revolt and his base may splinter soon, which is unlike the moderate and conservative base Reagan continued to build when he was in office, including Reagan Democrats. This especially spells trouble for Obama in his race for a second term, in contrast to Reagan who won 49 of 50 states in his re-election bid.


      8. PM. says:

        As i see the problem, Gary, it is because you are arguing about hagiography–what people say about Reagan, his percieved legacy, etc–the myth of Reagan–and Jim and i are talking about the facts of Reagan. Bottom line is that these are two radically different things.

        Bottom line, i really do not care how Obama is viewed for the 5-10-15-20 years after his term in office–i care about the facts of what he does, because that is what will determine my future, your future, etc.

        Reagan is a myth, a construct–and i am not certain of his transformative nature. the USSR did not fail because of Reagan–it was going to fail one way or another. Perhaps some of Reagan’s policies had a minor impact, causing it to end earlier or later than it might otherwise have done, but any other argument is not factually correct, and is simple myth making.

        Certainly there is power in myth, power in what people believe, but all of the people in the world believing that it is flat will not make it so. There are limits to the power of myth. Over time, myths become more like the facts, and i fully expect that Reagan’s “legacy” will fall a lot closer to earth, while Carter’s reputation will rise.

      9. PM. says:

        Oh, btw, I do not think that Obama’s base is going to splinter. Some will continue to complain, but the Maxine Water’s of the world will fall into line and support Obama.

        I assume that by “splinter” you mean that a challenger will emerge in the Democratic Party–and there is no sign of that happening. Is this just wishful thinking on your part? Or do you see someone preparing a primary challenge from the left?

      10. PM:

        You often make more sense than most liberals with whom I associate, but if Reagan’s legacy is a myth, Obama’s first several years is nothing short of a complete failure. Arguing that the USSR was going to fall anyway is akin to saying the economy will eventually get better, no matter what Obama does. I tend to agree that the USSR would have fallen anyway, but Reagan’s policies sped that up and most historians tend to agree. I think the comment about Carter’s legacy getting better is wishful thinking on your part. It seems to get worse with time, not better. I’ll bet you a case of Furious that you’re wrong on this one, though. And yes, we do have an ongoing bet on Obama’s re-election.

      11. Gary Pettis says:

        Darn good question PM, and thanks for asking it. And Loveland’s original post of “Third Parties: 2012 Election’s Critical Missing Piece” comes full circle.

        My gut says that there will be no patience in the electorate for a Third Party Presidential Candidate in 2012. There are too many chips on the table for both major parties and the country as a whole to gamble on a serious effort to run a third-party presidential campaign. If there is one, the mainstream media will marginalize as if it were a batty Perot or Nader campaign.

        Right wingers, includingTea Party types and conservatives, are committed to trying to limit Obama to one term. Meanwhile, Obama himself will be making a nosedive to independent positions and will be making noises right of center before the end of the year. A true trait of an independent, by the way, is a skill to flagrantly bash both the Senate and the House of Representatives, regardless of which party is in the majority.

        Left wingers will feel the most annoyed by Obama’s chameleon-like, middle-of-the-road stances and image as the Warrior President Who Still Can’t Move the Unemployment Needle and Make the Economy Work Better.

        People on the left, workers and minorities specifically, are the most affected by the high unemployment numbers.

        It makes sense to me that someone from the Shadows of the Left might come out and start a third-party effort–or take Obama on in the primaries.

        Alternatively, the only person seemingly running as a third-party, moderate candidate in 2012 will be Obama himself on the “Why Can’t We All Get Along” platform, distancing himself from the record of his first term. To have a chance of winning win, he will have to adopt this strategy.

        But the country is in no mood for appeasement, it is instead calling out loudly for bold action now, which is out of sync with Obama’s past “Change” rhetoric. His version of “Change,” of course, was never intended to be a brash, lightning-strike maneuver.

        If Obama returns to his comfort zone in the far left, he will appear to be a candidate who is unable to understand how to let the private sector run wild and create jobs. The complexities of the economy will appear to be not within the President’s ability to comprehend.

        (The views expressed here are my own, and do not represent the opinions or beliefs of the general The Same Rowdy Crowd community . . . like always.)

      12. Jim Leinfelder says:

        I’m merely saying that whoever the Reagan Democrats were, Wikipedia notwithstanding, they’re now some three decades older and not particularly worried about the arms race or deregulation. The people who are now the age the so called Reagan Democratcs were then are worried first and foremost about: jobs, jobs and jobs. And Republicans have surely demonstrated that they are not concerned in any realistic, proactive way about jobs in the least.

        But I did also posit that the Reagan of 1980 or 1984 couldn’t win a primary battle in today’s Republican climate.

        I did not, however, “diss” Ronald Reagan. If I “dissed” anyone, it’s those who blindly deify the man and misrepresent his actual record as they’ve radicalized his party.

      13. PM. says:

        Mike: I’d take that bet (there is only one way to go for his reputation, after all), but we’d have to wait 10 years, because that is the time scale on which these things happens. (and no, i certainly have not forgotten about our bet–and I’d be afraid about losing it, except that there still does not appear to be a strong Republican candidate).

        I don’t think that Obama’s first several years are anything close to a failure–rather they are historic. You may not agree with his accomplishments, but there are a huge number of them. ( ; ; ; etc. ). And, we will have to wait to see just how historic and successful they are–although we can certainly make guesses about that now (but those will only be guesses.)

        As for “dissing” Reagan, that just underscores my point–Jim and I pointed out the facts, and that apparently amounts to “dissing”? It really is a myth, and myths tend to deflate over time, or become fairy tales.

        And, my own guess about the future, is that most of the opposition to Obama will be seen, in 25 years or more, as a backward looking form of resentment, based on fears of social and cultural change, with a distinct racial tinge–sort of like the Know Nothing Party ( But, of course, i could be wrong.

      14. Joe Loveland says:

        Re: Gary’s “There are too many chips on the table for both major parties and the country as a whole to gamble on a serious effort to run a third-party presidential campaign.”

        A third party effort that gets even as low as 1%-2% of the electorate in a key state or two can impact the outcome of a close race. Again, I’m not saying a third party is going to win. I am saying they could very well be the deciding factor in a close race.

      15. Gary Pettis says:

        How about this everyone?

        On August 9th, Mike Kennedy includes this sentence in a Same Rowdy Crowd post of his:

        “I happen to think an intelligent woman might be just what the country needs right now.”

        In less than 24 hours, Ellen responds:

        “I am available.”

        With this hat in the ring, Joe, we’re counting on you to do those things you do so well. Your talents and skills can’t fail us now.

        PM can be an advance person who arranges a campaign kick-off event in Mankato and offers Spear an exclusive first interview with the candidate.

        Jim Leinfelder can be asked to watch over the efforts of our phone bank volunteers because we know that behind that gruff and often biting writing style beats the heart of someone who connects so warmly on a personal level with his fellow human beings.

        Because Kennedy has a Mankato history of throwing lavish parties, he can be the point person to host a fund-raiser reception down at the Mankato City Center Hotel.

        At the end of the kick-off event, I can drive up in the new campaign bus and help everyone load up their luggage and take their seats. In moments, the network of Interstate highways can be ours.

        The sides of the bus feature the campaign theme in big letters above a background of a flying U.S. flag and bursting fireworks. On the bus graphic’s base foreground, all around the circumference of the bus, there can be an image of everyone from The Same Rowdy Crowd, locked arm in arm and high stepping like the Radio City Rockettes.

        As the bus driver, I can be wearing a NASCAR-quality jacket with the campaign theme embroidered in brilliant colors:

        “Bring Back the Magic with Mrja 2012.”

        With this third-party candidacy, we can take the country by storm and capture the imagination of more than 2 percent of the electorate. Indeed, with Ellen’s availability, we can have an impact of the final outcome of the 2012 presidential election.

    2. Gary Pettis says:

      I hope the Bachmann=Batman comparison sticks; the valiant Dark Knight against the evil forces of the Joker, the Riddler and the Catwoman. A hero that seeks no glory, nor is worried about her “press” from the mainstream media.

      If the nickname sticks, the release of next summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises” will gain a lot of favor for the Republicans.

      Still, batfriends, there’s the October release of the yet to be titled movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, with Obama’s brilliant mind making the tough calls synchronized with the action of real-time trigger pulling.

      Alas, that movie has already hit a snag.

      At best, maybe at the last minute, if the movie is made, Hollywood can swing a few swing voters Obama’s way at the last minute.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    Obama right now is as low as he’s been, and Bachmann is as high as she’s been. Despite that, Obama leads Bachmann by an average of 11 points in an average of the most recent polls. So, don’t get too excited about Bachmann yet. It’s a long, long away from the election, and she isn’t exactly running away with it.

    Given that only 18% of Americans are approving of the Tea Party these days, I’d take my chances running against an all Tea Partier ticket — Perry-Bachmann or Bachmann-Perry.

    Again, though, the outcome probably will hinge more on who the dominant third party is in the fall of 2012 than who the Republicans pick.

  4. Joe Loveland says:

    Don’t miss MinnPost Eric Black’s post today about his encounter with Rep. Bachmann over her claim that Iran had plans to partition Iraq and turn over much of the country to al Qaeda.

    Rep. Bachmann’s gaffes about Concord and the like are silly, but harmless. But to be so completely off base about a critical national security hotspot, and to prove unable to admit the mistake, puts her in a scarier category.

  5. Will Dewey says:

    I haven’t seen anything yet to change what I expected as of last February — Huntsman as the Republican nominee and Perry at the head of a Tea Party-like splinter on the far right. Tim Pawlenty would make a balancing running-mate for Huntsman, and Michelle Bachmann for Perry. Idioteology has won electoral votes before.

    I’d like to see Joe Biden eased out to pasture and Russ Feingold as VP next term, not so much that we need a better VP but I’d like to see Russ on a national stage. When he reaches retirement age I’m sure he’d be welcomed back to teach the next generation how to be statespeople rather than politicians.

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