Dec 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

"Trump would prevail": Dems alarmed by 2024 bipartisan spoilers

Illustration of a hand reaching to pop a balloon featuring the Democrat logo.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Democrats are trying to stop outside groups from forming a bipartisan presidential ticket in 2024, warning voters that the effort is political malpractice.

Why it matters: A third party could hand the presidency to Donald Trump, warns a new report from Third Way, shared first with Axios.

  • The report details epic failures from past political efforts and warns about the unique dangers of an emerging outsider candidate.
  • "If a third-party candidate blew past historic precedent and managed to win enough Electoral Votes to keep any candidate from getting to 270, then the outcome would be decided in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans and where Donald Trump would prevail," the report says.

The big picture: Voters' growing dissatisfaction with both parties — and with candidates considered too extreme on either side — has reenergized a quiet campaign to recruit and fund an alternative presidential ticket without a D or R next to their name.

  • Over the course of this year, the bipartisan group No Labels has been working to build a $70M operation supporting a third-party option in 2024.
  • No Labels didn't rule out boosting an alternative to Biden should he run again, but told Axios that they won't offer a presidential ticket "if that choice isn't needed," per its spokesman Ryan Clancy.
  • "Our citizen leaders from around the nation have no interest in fueling a spoiler," Clancy said. "But if the public urgently wants and needs another choice, we’ll make sure they have it."

The details: The report from Third Way, a center-left political think tank, leans on several data points from past cycles to argue that "anything but a staunchly conservative third-party candidate" would hurt Democrats.

  • In the 2016 election, outsider candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson ended up with 3% of the vote share or less. And yet they siphoned enough voters away from Democrats that it helped Trump pull off an unlikely victory.
  • George Wallace in 1968 was the last such candidate to win even a single electoral vote.

Zoom in: Third Way's analysis found that Trump voters are stickier — they like him more than Biden voters like Biden. So they're not as likely to jump around.

  • In 2020, a third presidential option wasn't present in the same way as '16, helping Joe Biden best Hillary Clinton's numbers in battleground states.
  • Democrats improved their vote share from that cycle in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin amid decreased support for outside candidates.
  • Voters who say they don’t like either party's presidential nominee tend to lean Democratic — “ideal targets for a credible third-party candidate," said Aliza Astrow, the Third Way senior political analyst who authored the report.

What they're saying: "Jill Stein and Gary Johnson weren’t that well financed, so there is a lot of concern this time around that there might be a better financed third-party candidacy that comes on the scene with $50M," Astrow told Axios.

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