Not a Fan of Romney or Obama? Third Party Candidates Offer Views in Debate


It’s been a while since a third party candidate has really made a splash in the presidential election. Ross Perot garnered 19% of the popular vote back in 1992, and many left-leaners fault Ralph Nader’s Green Party bid in 2000 for serving as the reason Al Gore lost the election — although the onus should probably fall on the Supreme Court for that. (Additionally, this year’s Green Party nominee, Harvard educated physician Jill Stein, was arrested for trying to get into the first presidential debate.) But frankly, my favorite third party candidate in American history would have to be former-President Theodore Roosevelt, when he ran for a second term with the progressive Bull Moose Party.

Unless Libertarian and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson gets a surprising chunk of the vote and potentially hinders Romney’s chances (although many libertarians scoff at the notion that those votes would otherwise go to a Republican), it’s doubtful third parties will make an impact this year. However, Larry King moderated a debate between them on Tuesday, and it’s worth noting.

The New York Times blog The Caucus reports:

The call by the liberals, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, for an end to the war on drugs was amplified by Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Mr. Johnson offered bona fides on the question: “I have drank alcohol, I have smoked marijuana” — though not anymore, he said. Even Virgil Goode of the conservative Constitution Party, who opposes legalization, said he would cut financing for federal drug enforcement in the name of closing the deficit.

But their passion and refusal to compromise on the principles that reflect their ideas of American democracy marked each person on stage. In an illustration of the circular nature of the political spectrum, the staunch liberals and small-government conservatives all firmly opposed the practice of indefinite detention without trial and said that the Pentagon’s budget should be cut as the United States takes a less aggressive posture.

“We cannot be the policemen of the world,” Mr. Goode said, followed shortly by Ms. Stein’s similar sentiment: “A foreign policy based on militarism and brute military force is making us less secure, not more secure.”

The particular set questions, submitted by social media and the event’s organizers, disproportionately addressed issues where the candidates’ views are alike. It took a question about the cost of college to reveal strong differences. Ms. Stein, a physician, and Mr. Anderson, a former Democrat and mayor of Salt Lake City, both said the government should provide free higher education. The right-leaning candidates both said they would cut Pell grants, Mr. Johnson reasoning that guaranteed government loans make universities “immune from pricing.”

And even Mr. Johnson and Mr. Goode had differences. The latter said he would cut off immigration until the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent, while Mr. Johnson, a former New Mexico governor who unsuccessfully ran in the G.O.P. primary, wants to make it easier for immigrants to get work visas.

Both men have been seen as possible spoilers for Mitt Romney, and Mr. Goode seemed to particularly relish that potential. A former Virginia congressman, he overcame Republicans’ efforts to keep him off the ballot in that state, and he frequently contrasted his plans to cut the budget with the slower approach of the Republican ticket.