If history is a guide, the announcement by Michigan congressman Justin Amash that he will seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president is unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the November election between the presumptive major party nominees Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Third-party candidates almost always perform poorly. There are significant exceptions to that rule, though — and two of them were strong enough for both Trump and Biden to consider the possibility of what might happen.
Amash was a Republican until leaving the party last year, saying it no longer represented those who favor small government with little or no budget deficits. What’s most interesting about his candidacy is that his home state of Michigan is one of the four or five that are likely to decide this year’s winner.
He represents only one congressional district in the state, but as Michigan showed in 2016, only a few thousand participants in a presidential election can make a difference: Trump won the state by less than 11,000 votes.
Will third-partiers such as Amash upset the applecart this year? The only thing to say it that it’s happened before.
In 1992, Ross Perot’s candidacy helped propel Bill Clinton to victory against incumbent George H.W. Bush, and in 2000 Ralph Nader’s bid cost Al Gore enough votes to lose Florida and the presidency to Bush’s son, George W. Bush.