Libertarian Party

Libertarian Party Candidates Polling Surprisingly Well in the South

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Patricia Murphy writing at Daily Beast spies the oracle of various early polls and finds three southern elections where a Libertarian Party candidate is polling well—and far wider than the gaps between the Democratic and Republican contenders. To her great credit, she manages to do so without ever playing into the hoary old two-party duopoly concept of the "spoiler":

L.P.

In Georgia, nanotechnologist Andrew Hunt is polling at 9 percent in the governor's race, which is otherwise a dead heat between incumbent Republican Nathan Deal and Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter. In North Carolina, the headlines have focused on the Thom Tillis-Sen. Kay Hagan face-off in November, but quietly amassing 11 percent in the contest is Sean Haugh, the Libertarian candidate running on an anti-war agenda. And in Florida, Adrian Wyllie will be on the November ballot with Gov. Rick Scott and former governor Charlie Crist. Although Wyllie is polling at 4 percent, he's at 10 percent with Florida's all-important independent voters and will be on the same November ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.

Georgia's Hunt is trying to split the difference between social liberals and religious conservatives with this message:

Hunt said his own religious values are helping him make the case for government getting out of the business of legislating morality.

"I'm a very Christian person," he said. "I tell people it's not ours to judge other people. It's God's to judge other people. You can have an opinion and share your opinion, but you can allow them to live the life they want to live. There are a lot of people who agree with that."

North Carolina's Haugh has an observation that should either cheer or terrify those hoping for L.P. victories, depending on your beliefs about how much freedom your fellow citizens are willing to allow you to have:

Haugh says his own experience running statewide in 2002 and again in 2014 for the U.S. Senate shows him the growth of libertarianism in the state, where he is polling between 8 percent and 11 percent, in the race that shows Tillis and Hagan essentially tied.

"I think it's more of a positive identification with Libertarian ideas more than just a willingness to try something different," Haugh said of his race this time around. "The word is not new anymore. They know it's out there and they know what it means."

As usual, the story reports on lots of people being sick of the two major parties—likely true yet also likely to not mean much in action terms. Third party candidates who start polling surprisingly well tend to not actually do nearly that well when votes are actually cast.

As the example of Libertarian Robert Sarvis in last year's Virginia gubernatorial race shows, data doesn't support the notion that any L.P. vote would have properly gone to a Republican absent the Libertarian choice, an incorrect presumption that leads many Republicans who lose to a Democrat with a Libertarian also in the mix to cry that the L.P. "spoiled" things for them. (Sarvis is hoping to "spoil" the Senate race in Virginia this year.)

And read both Scott Shackford and me on the whole silly issue of saying that a candidate giving a voter a choice she might really want is "spoiling" an election for anyone.

Given that both Democrats and Republican candidates reliably betray the principles of the Constitution and their constituents' liberty, a Libertarian candidate is essentially, and properly, aiming to spoil things for both of them.