Third Way?

This weekend a group of evangelical leaders met in Texas to discuss backing one of Mitt Romney’s rivals.

Although most commentators seem convinced that it’s too late to derail Mitt Romney, that this is something evangelicals should’ve considered months if not years ago, this confirms my sneaking suspicion that we might be in for a three-way presidential contest this fall.

I’ve waited and waited for someone who wasn’t Mitt Romney to enter into the GOP field, pat him nicely on the back and tell good ol’ Mitt that he’d take it from here. For about two seconds it looked like that man was going to be Rick Perry. If Perry had any common sense or future ambition he would’ve quit the race months ago. I keep thinking we’ve seen rock bottom, but time and time again he comes back with some new low.

The anti-gay, gay cowboy jacket advert. Supporting the rights of U.S. marines to urinate on the corpses of enemy combatants. And that’s just the top of the pile.

At this point, Barack Obama and the Democratic party are celebrating their wildest dreams coming true: the right is divided with a bunch of clowns competing to become top-clown. No wonder the Chris Christies of the world are staying the hell away. It’s like the 3 Stooges running for president. On steroids. No one with thoughts of a future political career wants to get embroiled in that.

While it’s too late for any serious, credible candidates to enter the Republican field, it’s precisely for this reason that a 3rd party contender is looking more and more plausible.

Barack Obama, although he seems to be experiencing a resurgence of popularity at the moment, has lost a lot of his base’s conviction and enthusiasm which helped carry him to victory in 2008.

Blogging on the assumption that Romney will win the nomination, this leaves a huge gap. In base terms, can you imagine a presidential contest in this country where neither contender is a white, evangelical Christian? Remember how hard it was in 2008 for evangelicals to come around to John McCain (who is himself a Baptist – at least according to Wikipedia)?

So what if there are just enough people alienated by Obama – Romney to create the vacuum for a 3rd party? Let’s not overlook a couple of other things: Firstly (and maybe most importantly), we’re living in an economic downturn, in the wake of the 99% and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. How many people are going to feel comfortable voting for someone like Mitt Romney who’s had his life more or less handed to him by his parents’ privilege? (I’m not trying to attack him on this point – just stating the facts.) Secondly, how is Mitt Romney going to win the South as a “Massachusetts moderate” as Newt Gingrich calls him?

So what could the race this fall end up looking like?

Romney vs. Obama vs. Third Party. Depending on who the third party candidate is, this could work in Obama’s favor. A third party candidate like Buddy Roemer could do some damage to Romney if he runs as a third-party candidate in November and starts gaining some traction. Roemer is a down-to-earth, Southern Republican with populist appeal. He’s the only presidential candidate that I know of who’s bothered to go out and speak with Occupy protestors. If he were in the contest taking 10 – 20% of the vote in southern states like Louisiana and Georgia, this clears the way for President Obama to pick up a few of the purple-leaning states (not that this will be a huge boost – but it could wind up as a deciding factor in a potentially close race with Romney).

Buddy Roemer might be a bit of a stretch. Maybe the third party candidate will end up being a Jon Huntsman or one of the other GOP burnouts still in the race.

Every time I tell myself that this isn’t plausible, that a 3rd party candidate isn’t going to step in, I try to imagine what the November contest is going to look like without a 3rd party candidate. Romney vs. Obama is going to be a bloody, nasty mess.

jrm

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