Third parties can be significant in elections

From Bob Waldrop:

The January 1993 issue of Campaigns and Elections has an article entitled "When Two's a Race and Three's a Crowd: Winning When There's One Candidate Too Many." The article is by two professional consultants working for Fairbank, Maullin and Associates, an opinion research and public policy analysis company in Santa Monica, Ca.

Some "gems" from the article include:

"The year of the woman? To be sure, but 1992 was also the year of the third party. H Ross Perot and his 19 million votes for president is only the most visible symbol of the growth of the third party. . . In fact. . . third party candidates had a bigger impact on the 92 election than ever before."

"... third party candidates are developing momentum at all political levels ..."

"This all means that Democratic and Republican campaign professionals can no longer afford to ignore third party opposition in congressional and legislative races ..."

"We learned to pay close attention to the approval ratings of third-party candidates ... This was especialyl true when the third party candidate was a woman and the two mainstream candidates were men ..."

The article cites the California 50th congressional district race, and the impact of Libertarian candidate Barbara Hutchinson.

"Two weeks before election day, in a move almost without precedent for a third party congressional candidate, Hutchinson went on television with four spots, including a harsh negative attack on Filner. But Filner beat her to the punch by establishing her negatives with voters first ... Hutchinson was contained at 11 percent ..."

The article notes the following advice for professional consultants:

"Advance warning through voter opinion research is essential to identify the potential appeal of and danger from third party candidates ... Voter opinion research should also test positive and negative themes for third party candidates along with the major contenders in push questions ... if voter opinion research confirms a third party threat, conduct thorough opposition reasearch. Forewarned is forearmed ... Mainstream party candidates should plan for a narrow victory, even if your candidate is heavily favored. Every vote counts in a three-way -- or four-way -- race."