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Alexi McCammond: Outside groups and the Democratic National Committee have recently wrangled President Biden’s allies to start countering third-party campaigns. (Of course, that’s after they tried to dismiss RFK Jr. and questioned his ultimate ballot access.) But it doesn’t seem that former president Donald Trump or the national Republican Party has done anything similar. What do you make of that?

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Karen Tumulty: I’ve asked Team Trump about this, and they say they have no plans to join the Democrats in this effort. They say third-party candidates hurt Biden more than Trump. But the polling — a recent Fox News survey out of Pennsylvania, for instance — shows third-party candidates taking a dent out of Trump as well.

Alexi: That’s interesting and consistent with the GOP’s strategy of catering to the core 35 percent or so of voters who make up Trump’s MAGA base. I think RFK Jr. will take voters from Trump because of how outspoken he has been about vaccines and government health agencies.

Perry Bacon: My impression is that national Democrats think Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent, based on 2016 and 2020. So that leaves at least 52 percent for the Democratic candidate, unless a third-party candidate takes that away. I am not sure. I think it is possible that third-party candidates hurt Trump as much as Biden, unlike 2016, when I think the third-party vote did mostly hurt Hillary Clinton.

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Alexi: Do you agree with Democrats’ take on that, Perry? That Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent?

Perry: I am not sure. We only have two sample elections!

Alexi: I know, I know. We need the data.

Perry: So, in 2016, 6 percent of voters backed a third-party candidate. In 2020, it was 2 percent. I think 2024 will be closer to 6 percent than 2 percent.

Karen: One thing that is really different from 2016: Back when people thought there was no chance Trump would win, a vote for, say, Jill Stein was just a way for a voter to vent, seemingly with no consequences. No one is thinking that in 2024.

Perry: I agree with Karen’s point about venting. But I just think there is a ton of frustration with both candidates, like in 2016.

Alexi: Based on past elections with spoiler candidates such as Ross Perot, what signs are you looking for to see if any third-party candidate is more promising closer to November?

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Karen: There is so much that will happen between now and then. Hillary Clinton’s campaign team believed James Comey’s late decision to reopen the investigation against her really cost them because it sent some voters to Stein. Their modeling showed they needed north of 60 percent of young voters; they only got in the 50s. And of course, it really matters where these third-party candidates are running. The entire election will be decided in six, possibly seven, states.

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Perry: It would be big if Kennedy seemed like a serious candidate, got lots of media coverage and potentially qualified for debates. In 1992, there was real talk of Perot winning. That made him seem more serious. I doubt many voters are actually thinking Kennedy might be president. I do think Kennedy is much different from Stein and Cornel West. The latter two I view as just Biden spoilers pulling liberal votes.

Alexi: Yes. Kennedy seems to be running for clearer reasons than the others, who are more explicitly running to be a spoiler, which is how it has worked in the past, too (such as with Perot).

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Karen: I don’t think Perot was running just as a spoiler. Certainly his supporters didn’t think so. And George Wallace managed to actually win some states. But final point: I think it’s early. People are still shopping. The bigger danger to Biden is more likely to be if key constituencies just decide to sit this one out.

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The next word

It’s all but assured that a third-party candidate will not win the presidency this fall, as history suggests it’s impossible. Yet polls and focus groups show that many 2024 voters are intrigued by the idea of backing someone without an “R” or “D” next to their name.

“Voters may be surprised at how many choices they actually have,” Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, told NBC. “It’s going to make polls even harder to figure out. It’s an added haze over the whole battlefield.”

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Democrats are paying attention, as I mentioned in the chat. But while Democrats might fear that a third-party candidate will hurt Biden more than Trump, my Post Opinions colleague Marc Thiessen has a reality check for Team Trump: “Nikki Haley won 2.9 million votes in the primaries. Our Fox News voter analysis shows that somewhere between 5 in 10 and 6 in 10 of those Nikki Haley voters say they won’t vote for Trump in November. If even a fraction of those voters deliver on that promise and stay home or vote third-party or split their votes … Trump loses,” he said on a recent Fox News appearance. Game on.

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r/Politics

The economy remains one of the top concerns for voters this year, and one user on r/Economics shared an Associated Press article for discussion: “Biden goes into 2024 with the economy getting stronger, but voters feel horrible about it.”

This top-liked comment put it bluntly for how some working people feel about that: “If the ‘economy is getting stronger’ is purely measured on GDP, then it’s pretty worthless for people who have to work 2 jobs just to afford rent and food.”

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Many Americans aren’t down with their options this fall. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of several third-party candidates offering voters an alternative (albeit unlikely) choice for a future president. So I asked my Post Opinions colleagues Perry Bacon and Karen Tumulty: How do you see these candidates shaping the race?

Alexi McCammond: Outside groups and the Democratic National Committee have recently wrangled President Biden’s allies to start countering third-party campaigns. (Of course, that’s after they tried to dismiss RFK Jr. and questioned his ultimate ballot access.) But it doesn’t seem that former president Donald Trump or the national Republican Party has done anything similar. What do you make of that?

Karen Tumulty: I’ve asked Team Trump about this, and they say they have no plans to join the Democrats in this effort. They say third-party candidates hurt Biden more than Trump. But the polling — a recent Fox News survey out of Pennsylvania, for instance — shows third-party candidates taking a dent out of Trump as well.

Alexi: That’s interesting and consistent with the GOP’s strategy of catering to the core 35 percent or so of voters who make up Trump’s MAGA base. I think RFK Jr. will take voters from Trump because of how outspoken he has been about vaccines and government health agencies.

Perry Bacon: My impression is that national Democrats think Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent, based on 2016 and 2020. So that leaves at least 52 percent for the Democratic candidate, unless a third-party candidate takes that away. I am not sure. I think it is possible that third-party candidates hurt Trump as much as Biden, unlike 2016, when I think the third-party vote did mostly hurt Hillary Clinton.

Alexi: Do you agree with Democrats’ take on that, Perry? That Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent?

Perry: I am not sure. We only have two sample elections!

Alexi: I know, I know. We need the data.

Perry: So, in 2016, 6 percent of voters backed a third-party candidate. In 2020, it was 2 percent. I think 2024 will be closer to 6 percent than 2 percent.

Karen: One thing that is really different from 2016: Back when people thought there was no chance Trump would win, a vote for, say, Jill Stein was just a way for a voter to vent, seemingly with no consequences. No one is thinking that in 2024.

Perry: I agree with Karen’s point about venting. But I just think there is a ton of frustration with both candidates, like in 2016.

Alexi: Based on past elections with spoiler candidates such as Ross Perot, what signs are you looking for to see if any third-party candidate is more promising closer to November?

Karen: There is so much that will happen between now and then. Hillary Clinton’s campaign team believed James Comey’s late decision to reopen the investigation against her really cost them because it sent some voters to Stein. Their modeling showed they needed north of 60 percent of young voters; they only got in the 50s. And of course, it really matters where these third-party candidates are running. The entire election will be decided in six, possibly seven, states.

Perry: It would be big if Kennedy seemed like a serious candidate, got lots of media coverage and potentially qualified for debates. In 1992, there was real talk of Perot winning. That made him seem more serious. I doubt many voters are actually thinking Kennedy might be president. I do think Kennedy is much different from Stein and Cornel West. The latter two I view as just Biden spoilers pulling liberal votes.

Alexi: Yes. Kennedy seems to be running for clearer reasons than the others, who are more explicitly running to be a spoiler, which is how it has worked in the past, too (such as with Perot).

Karen: I don’t think Perot was running just as a spoiler. Certainly his supporters didn’t think so. And George Wallace managed to actually win some states. But final point: I think it’s early. People are still shopping. The bigger danger to Biden is more likely to be if key constituencies just decide to sit this one out.

It’s all but assured that a third-party candidate will not win the presidency this fall, as history suggests it’s impossible. Yet polls and focus groups show that many 2024 voters are intrigued by the idea of backing someone without an “R” or “D” next to their name.

“Voters may be surprised at how many choices they actually have,” Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, told NBC. “It’s going to make polls even harder to figure out. It’s an added haze over the whole battlefield.”

Democrats are paying attention, as I mentioned in the chat. But while Democrats might fear that a third-party candidate will hurt Biden more than Trump, my Post Opinions colleague Marc Thiessen has a reality check for Team Trump: “Nikki Haley won 2.9 million votes in the primaries. Our Fox News voter analysis shows that somewhere between 5 in 10 and 6 in 10 of those Nikki Haley voters say they won’t vote for Trump in November. If even a fraction of those voters deliver on that promise and stay home or vote third-party or split their votes … Trump loses,” he said on a recent Fox News appearance. Game on.

The economy remains one of the top concerns for voters this year, and one user on r/Economics shared an Associated Press article for discussion: “Biden goes into 2024 with the economy getting stronger, but voters feel horrible about it.”

This top-liked comment put it bluntly for how some working people feel about that: “If the ‘economy is getting stronger’ is purely measured on GDP, then it’s pretty worthless for people who have to work 2 jobs just to afford rent and food.”

A post shared by Washington Post Opinions (@postopinions)

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Sign up for the Prompt 2024 newsletter for opinions on the biggest questions in politicsArrowRight

💬 💬 💬

Alexi McCammond: Outside groups and the Democratic National Committee have recently wrangled President Biden’s allies to start countering third-party campaigns. (Of course, that’s after they tried to dismiss RFK Jr. and questioned his ultimate ballot access.) But it doesn’t seem that former president Donald Trump or the national Republican Party has done anything similar. What do you make of that?

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Karen Tumulty: I’ve asked Team Trump about this, and they say they have no plans to join the Democrats in this effort. They say third-party candidates hurt Biden more than Trump. But the polling — a recent Fox News survey out of Pennsylvania, for instance — shows third-party candidates taking a dent out of Trump as well.

Alexi: That’s interesting and consistent with the GOP’s strategy of catering to the core 35 percent or so of voters who make up Trump’s MAGA base. I think RFK Jr. will take voters from Trump because of how outspoken he has been about vaccines and government health agencies.

Perry Bacon: My impression is that national Democrats think Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent, based on 2016 and 2020. So that leaves at least 52 percent for the Democratic candidate, unless a third-party candidate takes that away. I am not sure. I think it is possible that third-party candidates hurt Trump as much as Biden, unlike 2016, when I think the third-party vote did mostly hurt Hillary Clinton.

Advertisement

Alexi: Do you agree with Democrats’ take on that, Perry? That Trump can’t get above 47 or 48 percent?

Perry: I am not sure. We only have two sample elections!

Alexi: I know, I know. We need the data.

Perry: So, in 2016, 6 percent of voters backed a third-party candidate. In 2020, it was 2 percent. I think 2024 will be closer to 6 percent than 2 percent.

Karen: One thing that is really different from 2016: Back when people thought there was no chance Trump would win, a vote for, say, Jill Stein was just a way for a voter to vent, seemingly with no consequences. No one is thinking that in 2024.

Perry: I agree with Karen’s point about venting. But I just think there is a ton of frustration with both candidates, like in 2016.

Alexi: Based on past elections with spoiler candidates such as Ross Perot, what signs are you looking for to see if any third-party candidate is more promising closer to November?

Advertisement

Karen: There is so much that will happen between now and then. Hillary Clinton’s campaign team believed James Comey’s late decision to reopen the investigation against her really cost them because it sent some voters to Stein. Their modeling showed they needed north of 60 percent of young voters; they only got in the 50s. And of course, it really matters where these third-party candidates are running. The entire election will be decided in six, possibly seven, states.

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