Ever since Ralph Nader and his 1.6 percent share of the Florida vote was widely blamed for handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, Americans, their frustration with the two-party system notwithstanding, seem to have had shied away from supporting third-party presidential candidates. Unless Thomas Friedman manages to hypnotize Michael Bloomberg, that's not likely to change this year. Nevertheless, Nader proved that, thanks to the wonders of our electoral college system, a third-party candidate only needs to tip one close state to alter the outcome of the entire race. And this year, the Constitution Party's Virgil Goode could be the man to do it.
Earlier this month, a PPP poll showed Goode — who served two terms in Congress as a Democrat, followed by one as an independent, followed by three as a Republican — taking 5 percent of the vote in his home state of Virginia, and boosting Obama's lead over Romney by four points. As PPP pollster Tom Jensen pointed out, "It seems unlikely Goode would ultimately get 5 percent," but even a couple of points siphoned away from Romney could make a difference in what is shaping up to be one of 2012's most pivotal swing states.
But on the phone this afternoon, hours after a new NBC-Marist poll showed Obama with a slim four-point lead over Romney in the state, Goode (whose name is properly pronounced like mood, not hood), told us that he's not concerned about being a spoiler. "I think we will take votes from Romney, but we’re going to take a lot of votes from Obama too," he said. "I've had longtime Democrats say they don’t want to vote for Obama, they don’t want to vote for a Republican. They’ll vote for me." We pointed out that, at least according to the PPP poll, he's clearly taking more votes from Romney. Isn't he worried that his candidacy could flip the state to Obama? "No, I don’t think it will," he said. "I think we have a shot to win."
That's, um, unlikely. Goode, who is only accepting donations of $200 or less from non-family, says his campaign coffers hold about forty or fifty thousand dollars so far. To date, he's only ballot-eligible in seventeen states, a total that doesn't yet include his home state of Virginia. But assuming he does make it onto the ballot there, Goode's platform, which focuses on immediately slashing the budget and severely limiting even legal immigration, would appeal to the kind of far-right voters who look at Romney with askance. The tea-party-ish associations one automatically makes these days with the name "Constitution Party" wouldn't hurt either.
Perhaps the reason Goode isn't fretting the spoiler scenario is that he doesn't have much of a preference who occupies the White House anyway. "The sad situation is it won't be too much different whether Obama wins or Romney wins," he tells us. Which is why he's running in the first place. "If the race is between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, then you don’t have a choice. We need at least another choice, and I offer a choice."