How Third Party Efforts Could Get Trump Elected


Among all Biden’s other problems, including getting no improvement in his dismal polls after his energetic, proposal-rich State of the Union address, President Biden is threatened by four independent or third party candidates.

If the election is close, as expected, two of the three independents — black activist and university professor Cornel West and Green Party candidate Jill Stein will certainly cut into Biden’s vote count. They won’t affect Biden by much but perhaps enough to cost him the election in swing states.

In fact, both West and Stein should know full well they might be helping to elect Trump. In 2000, West was a prominent supporter of consumer activist Ralph Nader, who received 97,421 votes in Florida, allowing George W. Bush (who carried the state by just 537 votes) to beat Democratic Vice President Al Gore and win the presidency. In 2016, Green Party candidate Stein scored more than Trump’s margin of victory in Wisconsin and Michigan and just short in Pennsylvania. She was blamed for costing Hilary Clinton the election.

Votes for the third independent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., could conceivably hurt both Biden and Donald Trump — Biden, because he’s a Kennedy and an environmentalist; Trump because he’s an anti-vaccine activist and multi-issue conspiratorialist.

And now the centrist group No Labels has decided it will nominate a “unity ticket” with a Republican at the top and either a Democrat or Independent as Vice President. The group’s co-chairman, former Senator Joe Lieberman, said a just-appointed 12-member selection committee might announce a ticket as early as March 21.

The group is spending $70 million to secure ballot access for its candidates. As of February, it had done so in 16 states, including the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina. It has identified 25 other states where it believes No Labels could help win the presidency, including Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and it has ambitions to secure access in at least nine more.

No Labels is mounting the campaign because both Trump and Biden are hugely unpopular. Since 2003 Gallup polls have shown that up to 75 percent of independent voters, 61 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats have agreed that “the two major parties do such a poor job that a third major party was needed.”

No Labels claims its polling in August 2023 showed that 58 percent of voters in eight battleground states were “open to” voting  for an independent unity ticket. No Labels figures that if 34 percent actually vote that way, the ticket could win the election.

Of course, no third party has garnered over 34 percent of the vote since Liberal Republican Horace Greeley got 44 percent in 1872. Theodore Roosevelt got 27 percent in 1912, and Ross Perot tallied 19.7 percent in 1992. But just as Nader did and Stein almost did, Roosevelt cost Republican President William Howard Taft the election and delivered the presidency to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and Perot helped defeat George H.W. Bush and elect Democrat Bill Clinton.

Ever since No Labels  announced its effort, it has been attacked by Democrats and Democratic-aligned groups who fear No Labels’  campaign will elect Trump as president. The logic behind that fear is that any Republican or Democrat chosen for the ticket would have to be a centrist and opposed to Trump, hence a person who would pull votes away from Biden.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced No Labels as “perilous to our democracy…When they jeopardize the re-election of Joe Biden, I can no longer remain silent on them.” No Labels officials claim their polls indicate that the “unity ticket” would pull votes away from both Trump and Biden.

And No Labels also promises that they will “pull the plug”— remove their candidate from state ballots –  if polling evidence emerges that their effort would elect Trump. The decision whether to do so will be made in July, when most states have begun to print ballots, according to NL’s chief strategist Ryan Clancy. But the decision on who appears on ballots may be up to state officials, not No Labels, making it impossible to remove its candidates.

Another circumstance when the plug might be pulled, according to Lieberman and Clancy, would be the group’s inability to find and recruit candidates acceptable to a “convention”— presumably virtual — that the selection committee would report to.  Yet another factor would be  polling evidence that the group’s presidential candidate wasn’t “gaining traction,” said Lieberman, or that not enough voters “were open to considering” a vote for its ticket, according to Clancy.

The problem with that timing is that July is too early in the election calendar to determine whether or not the No Labels ticket could win or just be a spoiler for Biden. Almost invariably, third party candidates actually win fewer votes than early polls suggest because voters typically don’t want to “waste” their votes and help the major party they detest.

One of the fiercest opponents of No Labels’ campaign is the centrist Democratic group Third Way, which released a poll last month showing that an unnamed “moderate independent” could poll, at best, 16 percent of the vote and would siphon more votes from Biden than Trump.

Of course, whom No Labels nominates will have a big effect on its electoral power. Several “moderate independent” possibilities have said they won’t run — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and retiring Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once called No Labels’ effort “a fool’s errand,” recently said he would not rule out a run. But as the fiercest anti-Trump candidate in the GOP primaries, Christie would certainly pull votes away from Biden. 

Another much-mentioned possibility is former Georgia Lieut. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a handsome ex-professional baseball player who joined with Georgia’s governor and secretary of state in refusing to support Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. To the extent the little-known Duncan could gain traction, he also would likely pull votes from Biden and help Trump.

The bottom line: third party candidates pose a deep threat to Biden and, if Trump wins, to democracy.

Mort Kondracke
Mort Kondracke
Morton Kondracke is a retired Washington, DC, journalist (Chicago Sun-Times, The New Republic, McLaughlin Group, FoxNews Special Report, Roll Call, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal) now living on Bainbridge Island. He continues to write regularly for (besides PostAlley), mainly to advance the cause of political reform.


  1. This just in: Geoff Duncan, Georgia’s lieutenant governor, has pulled out of the independent race for president.

  2. “The problem with that timing is that July is too early in the election calendar to determine whether or not the No Labels ticket could win or just be a spoiler for Biden.”

    Not too early for me, I can tell you right now. They won’t win, and they know that very well. The only practical question is which way their effect goes on the outcome, but in the end that’s less important to them than their little moment on stage. Manchin, Christy, Duncan aren’t willing to wear that clown hat, but someone will.

  3. This election very likely poses a real test for the TikTok Left. Most of them aren’t old enough to have learned the painful lesson the previous generation of the polarized left learned in 2000, when they gravitated to the (ludicrous) Nader argument that there is no meaningful difference between the two parties, and in so doing threw the victory to Bush. Which led to the ill advised massive tax cuts that turned a surplus into huge deficits, led to the costly and idiotic Iraq War. etc. The results of that were profound, and deeply negative.

    It may well be that the new generation of the left is going to have to learn that same lesson the hard way, just like the previous generation did. It’s going to be hard to put the “Genocide Joe” genie back in the bottle by November. Though this time the stakes for the nation, and for the future of the republic, seem even higher.


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