Would a third-party candidate for president hurt the Republicans chances of winning the White House? More than likely it would -- if the candidate were a conservative like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is mulling just such a thing.
According to a recent article from AFP on Yahoo! News, Johnson "feels abandoned by the Republican Party after being left out of most of the debates and is thinking of seeking the support of the Libertarians." If Johnson really wants Obama to not get elected to a second term, he should probably re-think this.
Even though Johnson hasn't had a lot of support, barely registering on any of the national polls, in what could be a close presidential election, any votes he takes from the Republican nominee could make a big difference in the race, especially if another republican also decides to run as a third party candidate, say someone like Ron Paul. True, Paul has said he is not interested in running as a third-party candidate, but with poll numbers consistently showing he has good support, he might change his mind. In the latest McClatchy poll, he is only 8 points behind Obama.
If either Johnson or Paul, or any other Republican candidate, were to run as a third-party candidate, it would pretty much guarantee Obama's re-election in 2012. Either of these two alone would siphon on support from the Republican nominee, never mind if both were to run. This is the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, Democrats would never allow someone to run as a third-party candidate if they thought the candidate would draw too many voted away from the incumbent. Republicans on the other hand will.
A third-party candidate who will drain votes from the Republican candidate leads to one of two problems. Either, as stated above, the candidate will draw enough votes away to ensure an Obama win, or, the Republicans will be forced to nominate a candidate who they feel will be best able to defeat Obama, which leads to someone who leans more to the left than to the right, someone like Mitt Romney for instance. Then what have they gained?