The Impact of Third-Party Candidates on the 2024 US Presidential Election

2024 US presidential election is just under a year away, and the landscape is already taking shape. While there is still time for the scenario to change, current frontrunners for the nominations in their respective parties are President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Although these candidates are unlikely to win the election, they have the potential to sway the outcome in favor of one party or the other. However, it’s worth considering the power of third-party candidates in this election, as their influence should not be underestimated.

Influence of Third-Party Candidates

The growing interest in candidates outside of the Democratic and Republican parties is reminiscent of the 1990s when independent candidate Ross Perot gained 18.9% and 8.2% of the national vote in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, respectively. No third-party candidate has achieved similar margins since then.

In the highly divided and polarized electorate as seen in the 2024 polls, even smaller margins achieved by third-party candidates could impact the election results, especially in swing states where the presidential elections were decided by narrow margins in 2016 and 2020.

Looking back at the 2016 presidential election, a group of third-party candidates led by libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein collectively secured 2.2% of the votes in Michigan, 4% in Pennsylvania, and 2.8% in Wisconsin. These were the states that Trump won with incredibly small margins of 0.23%, 0.72%, and 0.77% of the votes, respectively. This demonstrates the potential impact of third-party candidates on the election outcome.

The Key Third-Party Candidates and Their Potential Impact

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Independent Candidate

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced his bid to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination, Trump welcomed the news. The possibility of one of the prominent members of the Kennedy political dynasty challenging Biden’s leadership was a cause for celebration for the former president and his team.

Trump stated in a Fox News interview in June after Kennedy’s announcement, “I know many members of that family, and he’s a very smart guy who has struck a chord. Many Democrats I know want to vote for him, and I like him a lot.”

However, after Kennedy withdrew from the Democratic primary to run as an independent candidate in the 2024 presidential election, the Trump campaign’s stance changed. In a statement from Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, it was warned that “voters should not be fooled by anyone claiming to have conservative values.

The fact is that RFK has a troubling background steeped in radical and liberal positions.” Kennedy’s radical positions against vaccine mandates and his adherence to conspiracy theories have made him attractive to Trump’s base.

Interestingly, recent polls have shown that Kennedy is more favorably viewed by Republicans, particularly among those who “hate the system,” posing a potential problem for Trump, whose strongest support lies within that group.

A recent survey by The New York Times/Siena College in six key swing states showed Kennedy polling at 24% in a head-to-head matchup against President Biden and Trump, trailing both by only 10%. Another poll by Quinnipiac University showed Kennedy and left-wing independent candidate Cornel West combining for 25% of the votes when pitted against Biden and Trump.

Joe Manchin, Potential No Labels Candidate

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia announced in early November that he would not seek reelection. He is also rumored to be a potential candidate for the centrist group No Labels. No Labels, founded in 2010, is a bipartisan organization that aims to find alternatives beyond the candidates of the major parties.

However, the organization has been criticized by Democrats, centrists, and moderate Republicans as an effort that could ultimately deliver the presidency to Trump by siphoning votes away from Biden.

No Labels has stated that it will not participate in the 2024 presidential race if polls indicate that its candidate could play a decisive role in the victory of either the Democratic or Republican nominee, according to co-chairman and former independent senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman.

Manchin, who has expressed his belief in No Labels’ mission from the beginning, has not ruled out the possibility of becoming the organization’s presidential nominee. Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland, has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Manchin.

However, Manchin’s popularity is not necessarily higher than that of Biden or Trump. YouGov polls conducted over the summer showed that his unfavorable rating was twice as high as his favorable rating, both overall and among independent voters.

A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute showed negative opinions about Manchin roughly four times higher, indicating that only 1 in 10 Americans view Manchin favorably.

Other Declared Third-Party Candidates

Jill Stein, who ran as the Green Party candidate in 2012 and 2016, has announced a new effort to secure the party’s nomination after Cornel West withdrew from the Green Party nomination to run as a left-wing independent candidate. Stein, a 73-year-old physician, and West, a 70-year-old philosopher, theologian, political activist, and university professor, are competing for the same group of left-leaning voters who played a significant role in Biden’s victory in 2020.

Both Stein and West have taken a pro-Palestinian stance that could potentially affect Biden’s vote share in Michigan, where there is a significant Arab-American voting bloc. However, neither West nor Stein has shown the ability to attract a large number of voters.

Stein obtained 0.4% of the votes in 2012 and 1.1% in 2016 when her candidacy gained some prominence after a photo of her dining at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin was published at the 10th-anniversary gala of RT in Moscow. The highest percentage of votes achieved by a Green Party candidate was 2.7%, accomplished by activist Ralph Nader in 2000.

Conclusion

While President Biden and former President Trump are currently the frontrunners for their respective party nominations, the impact of third-party candidates on the 2024 presidential election should not be underestimated. The influence of candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Joe Manchin, Jill Stein, and Cornel West could potentially sway the election results in swing states and disrupt the balance of power.

As the electorate becomes increasingly divided and polarized, third-party candidates have the potential to capture votes from disillusioned voters who are dissatisfied with the two major parties. The outcome of the 2024 presidential election may be influenced not only by the strategies and policies of Biden and Trump but also by the rise of third-party candidates who offer alternative visions for the future of the United States.

It remains to be seen how the campaigns of these third-party candidates will unfold and whether they will gain significant traction among voters. However, their presence in the race adds an additional layer of complexity to an already highly contested election. As the election draws nearer, it will be crucial to monitor the support and impact of these candidates on the overall political landscape.