The Nader effect in play after Virginia's decision

National Constitution Center
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2008 file photo, former Va. Rep. Virgil Goode speaks to reporters in Rocky Mount, Va. Goode will appear on Virginia's presidential ballot after state election officials rejected a Republican-led bid to keep him from draining votes from Mitt Romney in a swing state where polls show a deadlocked race. The State Board of Elections acted Tuesday after the state GOP called Goode's qualifying petitions and signatures into question and sought an independent review.  (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Sam Dean, File)
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A decision in Virginia to allow Virgil Goode on the presidential ballot could shake up the national election. And Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has now come into the spoiler picture.

But Goode won the right on Tuesday to appear on the Virginia ballot, in a move that could hurt Romney’s chances of taking the key swing state in November.

And now Ron Paul has come forward with some kind words about Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who will appear on many state ballots as a presidential candidate.

Johnson would be a potential factor in states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, and he could hurt either Obama or Romney, depending on how the political winds are blowing by November.

Republicans have vowed to prove that Goode, who has held various political offices in Virginia, doesn’t have enough legal petition signatures to run.

Johnson faces similar challenges. Last week, his campaign said the GOP has challenged his ballot presence in Michigan, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Iowa, and Ohio.

In August, Goode lost his quest to get on Pennsylvania’s ballot.

One national poll had Johnson with 5.3 percent of the national vote in July, while a poll this summer in Virginia had Goode with 9 percent of that state’s presidential vote.

In reality, even 1 percent of the vote in a battleground state could determine the national election, like Ralph Nader did in 2000.

Nader took 97,421 votes in Florida, as George W. Bush won the state by 537 votes—and won enough electoral votes to defeat Al Gore. Most of those Nader votes were expected to be Democratic votes.

This time, at least eight states could be affected by votes siphoned off by a third-party candidate. Swing states such as Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and Florida seem too close to call. Also, New Mexico could fall back into the swing state category.

Virgil Goode could definitely be a spoiler in November for Romney, if Goode survives more challenges to his ballot position.

Some polls from July showed Johnson hurting Obama more than Romney in two states: Colorado and New Mexico.

The current consensus polling shows a tight race, in the electoral and popular votes, between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Michigan and Wisconsin are now back in the swing state category, leaving 126 electoral votes as too close to call, according to the website Real Clear Politics.

A candidate needs 271 electoral votes to win the presidency outright. President Obama has a 20-vote lead over Romney in consensus polling, but he is still 50 votes short of a win in the Electoral College.

A late factor could be comments by Ron Paul, who still hasn’t endorsed Romney. It’s unlikely he would endorse Johnson for president, but Paul could do damage to the Romney campaign by signaling his unhappiness with his followers’ limited role at the GOP national convention.

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.

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