When West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced Thursday that he would not run for reelection in 2024, speculation immediately turned to whether or not the centrist Democrat was considering a third-party bid for president.
If Manchin decides to mount an outside challenge to the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties, he will not be alone.
When American voters go to the polls to elect a president in 2024, they may face more familiar names on the ballot than they are accustomed to, as relatively high-profile third-party candidates seek to take advantage of a year in during which the likely candidates of the two main parties suffer from low popularity.
President Joe Biden is currently expected to be the Democratic Party’s nominee, and despite a crowded primary, Donald Trump is the favorite to win the Republican nomination. Both men have public approval ratings well below 50%, and a majority of Americans have been telling pollsters for months that they do not want to see a rematch of the 2020 election, in which Biden toppled Trump.
Alternative applications declared
Voter dissatisfaction with the choices offered by the two major parties has led a number of alternative candidates and organizations to consider their chances.
Manchin is associated with No Labels, an organization that presents itself as politically centrist and is building the infrastructure necessary to place presidential and vice-presidential candidates on the ballot in all 50 states. No Labels said its ticket would contain a former Democrat and a former Republican.
Because he frequently made common cause with Senate Republicans during his time in Washington, Manchin was mentioned as a possible member of the group.
On Thursday, Jill Stein, a doctor who ran as a presidential candidate for the environmentally focused Green Party, announced she would seek the party’s nomination again in 2024. Stein ran on the party’s ticket Green in 2012 and 2016, but was not elected. 2020 contest. In 2016, Stein received 1.4 million votes and opprobrium from many Democrats, who blamed him for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Trump.
Another candidate who has announced an independent candidacy is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and the son of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. An environmental lawyer, Kennedy made his name as a prominent anti-vaccine activist and purveyor of conspiracy theories.
Cornel West, a prominent left-wing public intellectual who has taught at several prestigious universities, including Harvard and Princeton, is also considering running independently. West initially said he was running for the People’s Party nomination, then the Green Party, before deciding to run as a true independent.
The Libertarian Party has not yet nominated a presidential candidate but is expected to do so before the elections. In recent years, its presidential candidates have come in third in the popular vote. The party reached its peak in 2016, when candidate Gary Johnson won just over 3% of all votes cast.
In an email exchange with VOA, Kyle Kondik, editor-in-chief of Sabato’s crystal ball of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said third-party candidates could significantly disrupt the 2024 presidential elections.
“Conditions are ripe for third-party candidates to obtain a larger share of the vote than they usually do,” Kondik wrote. “If Biden and Trump are nominated, both will have low favorability numbers, meaning a significant slice of the electorate will have an unfavorable view of both candidates.
“This is what happened in 2016, when third-party candidates received 6% of the vote. Third-party candidates very often perform better in polls than they do, but they should still, collectively, get some level of combined support.”
More than in a typical presidential year, Kondik said, there are many third-party candidates with relatively high levels of awareness who can appeal to a wide range of demographics.
“There will also likely be many different third-party candidates, all potentially appealing to different types of voters: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for conspiracy believers, Jill Stein and Cornel West for the far left, a libertarian for some conservatives ., and a No Labels candidate for the moderates.”
It is important to note that in US presidential elections, there is no requirement that the winner receive a majority of votes. The winner is the individual who receives 270 or more votes in the Electoral College – an arcane system under which the candidate who receives the most votes in each state is assigned that state’s electors, the number of which is determined by the population of that state. the state.
This means that not only can someone who receives less than 50% of the popular vote become president, but under certain circumstances a candidate can win the presidency even if they lost the popular vote to their opponent. This has happened several times in US history, most recently when Donald Trump won the 2016 election.
Don’t run to win
Experts say it is extremely unlikely that a candidate who is not nominated by one of the two major parties will actually win the presidency. This does not mean, however, that their collective presence in the race will have no effect.
“I think we can be confident that none of these people or any other third-party candidates will be elected president in 2024,” said Hans Noel, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University.
“What is much more likely, however, is that one of these candidates, or a combination of them, appearing on the ballot will affect the outcome of the election,” Noel told VOA .
The difficulty, according to Noel, is trying to discern which of the major party candidates is most likely to lose voters to third-party alternatives. Overall, Noel said, and especially if a former Democrat like Manchin receives the No Labels nomination, it seems very likely that the presence of third-party candidates will hurt Biden more than Trump.
Seth Masket, professor of political science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, agrees that the most likely role third-party candidates will play next November is that of spoiler.
Masket said you only need to look back to the 2016 race between Clinton and Trump to see that, even in years when candidates from both major parties are unpopular, they still enjoy the loyalty of the vast majority of their voters.
“It was an eye-opening election where you had two of the least popular party candidates in polling history,” Masket told VOA. If there was ever a year where we had to see a lot of defections from the major parties, it would have been this time, and that really didn’t happen. Ninety percent of Democrats voted for Clinton and 90 percent of Republicans voted for Trump. »