In writing about "Bush's Third-Party Threat," CBS News seriously–and correctly– asks whether the Libertarian Party candidate for president (likely to be Aaron Russo) will cost George W. Bush the election.
Among the reasons for the GOP to get queasy:
Senate and gubernatorial races from 1998 to 2002 indicate that Libertarians have repeatedly swung elections in the Democrats? favor.
For example, in the 2002 governor?s race in the swing state of Oregon, Libertarian Tom Cox pulled in 57,760 votes to help Democrat Theodore Kulongoski eke out a 35,000 vote win over Republican Kevin Mannix.
In the 1998 Nevada U.S. Senate race, Democrat Harry Reid won by 401 votes over Republican John Ensign. Libertarian Michael Cloud earned 8,129 votes.
It's obviously unclear exactly how the voting will go in the fall but in 2000, it was clear that every vote counted (granted, you could make a strong case that, in the end, none of the votes counted, except for those of the U.S. Supreme Court). But if it's a tight race, there's little doubt that LP votes could be decisive.
The question in this year's presidential race, where the country appears to be split right down the middle between Democrats and Republicans, is: Can any third-party candidate make a difference?
Esteemed political observer Charles Cook doubts the LP "would be absolutely stunned if [the Libertarians] turned into anything of any consequence," while Bob "The Prince of Darkness" Novak opines, somewhat incoherently,
For Robert Novak, if Libertarians do not make their presence felt this election and Mr. Bush?s loses, the third-party will hold political weight in 2008.
?I just had breakfast with a guy and we discussed that people are already talking, as politicians do, about the what-ifs,? said Novak. ?Everybody believes if Bush loses, the Republican Party will move to the left in ?08, to the Schwarzenegger and Giuliani strain, and that is where you really get the possibility of a serious third-party movement.?