So what's an uncompromising Constitutional Conservative - like, say, Jamie Johnson of Iowa's Republican State Central Committee, who vows “My conscience will not let me help” Mitt Romney -- supposed to do?
Well, by coincidence, today is the start of the Libertarian National Convention, held appropriately enough in the do what thou wilt capital of America, Vegas, baby. The frontrunner for the nomination is the Libertarian's first bona fide elected official to seek the nomination since, well, Ron Paul in 1988. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran briefly for the Republican nomination this year on the Peter Tosh platform; elected officials only seem to get vocal about drug legalization once they LEAVE office. Johnson could have some appeal to Occupy types, but my pet theory is that Libertarians take two to three votes from Republicans for every one they take from Democrats.
Perhaps more of a threat to Mitt Romney is former congressman Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party. They're more of a strict social conservative outfit than the Libertarians, but that's the ticket Paul endorsed late in the 2008 cycle. Goode's got zero appeal to lefties but could draw decisive support in one state: his own Virginia. Public Policy Polling:
Another interesting angle in Virginia is the candidacy of former Congressman Virgil Goode as the Constitution Party candidate for President. We find him polling at 5% in a three way contest with Obama's lead over Romney expanding to 12 points at 50-38. It seems unlikely Goode would ultimately get 5% but anything he gets could help flip the state to Obama given how small Romney's margin for error there is. Goode gets 10% from those describing themselves as 'very conservative,' suggesting that Romney does still have some work to do with the far right.Romney already has a very narrow path to 270 electoral votes. Obama was the first Democrat to carry Virginia since LBJ in 1964, and Romney absolutely need to flip it back.
While Romney has some problems on the right from third parties, Obama has few worries on the left. The Greens seem to be rejecting the traditional fast track for a third party, the candidate with independent fame and name ID, in favor of the route to obscurity, the loyal party activist. Rosanne Barr of TV fame is running but is trailing Some Dude Jill Stein. In the DC Green primary, Barr tied for second with... Barack Obama write-ins.
The chattering class keeps trying to prop up the efforts of their Objective Journalism Dream Fantasy, a viable centrist independent presidential candidate. The much-ballyhooed Americans Elect project is having a lot of luck with ballot access, but much less luck getting a name candidate. They seem to be settling on "austere technocrat" David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general. But an election is not a New York Times op-ed, and without a Perot-like celebrity Americans Elect will be hard-pressed to get attention. And by its very nature a centrist party would tend to be a wash in terms of the Democrat vs. Republican dynamic.
So on balance, the one or two percent third party factor helps Obama and hurts Romney in what's likely to be a very close race. You might even say that for Obama, this is a Goode thing.