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Virgil Goode
Associated Press/Photo by Sam Dean/The Roanoke Times
Virgil Goode

Difference makers?

Politics | Third-party candidates won’t get a lot of votes, but they may affect the outcome of campaign 2012

Issue: "Race to the finish," Nov. 3, 2012

For Gary Johnson, the upcoming presidential elections are like a choice between two beverages: Coke and Pepsi. Johnson—the Libertarian Party candidate—proposes himself as an alternative: Perrier.

Johnson—a former two-term New Mexico governor—isn’t the only alternative in the Nov. 6 presidential contest. Former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode—the Constitution Party candidate—is set to appear on the ballot in at least 25 states. And Jill Stein—a physician from Massachusetts with no governing experience—heads the Green Party ticket.

Johnson and Goode are closest in political philosophies: Both are former Republicans who support massive cuts in federal spending. Goode says he’d immediately cut $1 trillion in discretionary spending. Johnson calls for similar measures, but the two candidates differ dramatically on social issues: Johnson supports same-sex “marriage” and abortion; Goode opposes both.

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Both candidates have registered small numbers in recent polls, but small numbers in a tight election could make a big difference. For example, an Oct. 7 poll showed Johnson with 4 percent of the votes in Virginia—one of the swing states that may help decide the election. The same poll showed President Obama with a 4-point lead over Gov. Romney in the state. (Goode had 1 percent of the vote.)

If Romney advocates worry that a third-party candidate could pull votes from the GOP nominee, their concerns make sense: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won 3 percent of the votes in the 2000 presidential election. Some political experts believe that was enough to pull significant votes from Vice President Al Gore, who lost the razor-thin election.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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