Three third-party presidential candidates have ballot access in more states than Ralph Nader and pose as much, if not more, of a threat to President Bush than to Democratic contender Sen. John Kerry.
The Libertarian Party is now on the presidential ballot in 44 states and the Constitution Party in 35 states, both more than the 24 that Mr. Nader has managed amidst a concerted effort from state Democrats to thwart his bids.
The Green Party, on whose ticket Mr. Nader ran in 2000 and received 2.8 million votes, is now on the ballot in 28 states.
The Libertarian and Constitution parties appeal to disenchanted conservatives who are fed up with the president’s stance on immigration, too permissive in those quarters, or his coziness with centrist Republicans like Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.
“We are playing to the conservatives who do not have a party to vote for,” said Libertarian presidential hopeful Michael Badnarik. “For example, Republicans have traditionally stood for smaller government, but this president has not adhered to that standard.”
The Bush bolstering of the so-called war on drugs, the Patriot Act and the proposed constitutional amendment to ban homosexual “marriage” are all at odds with the Libertarian party line.
Accordingly, Mr. Badnarik has appeared in homosexual-rights parades, has called the move to combat in Iraq a venture based on “fairy tales” and said that “the war on drugs is more of a threat to our liberties than drugs themselves.”
And he has done so unfettered by Republicans, even when a recent poll in New Mexico found him earning the nod from 5 percent of voters.
Republicans, even while getting savaged by erstwhile ideological competitors, have distanced themselves from any action to prevent third parties from the ballot, while Democrats have moved in several states against Mr. Nader, who has been admonished by Democratic officials from top to bottom for his entry into the race.
Not that Republicans wouldn’t make political hay of the situation.
“The difference between the parties is the Republican believe voters have a right to cast ballots for anyone who is on the ballot, whereas Democrats are engaged in an effort of intimidation to prevent Ralph Nader from being on the ballot,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson. “Republicans are confident they can win no matter who is on the ballot.”
Conservative talk-show host Pat Buchanan, appearing on “Hardball” on Tuesday night, noted to host Chris Matthews that given his disagreements with Bush policy, would still vote for the president, but “there is a chance I might vote for Peroutka . . . ”
Mr. Matthews’ reply was “Who? “
Exactly, but Michael Peroutka, a Maryland lawyer, is the Constitution Party’s presidential candidate, a man who seeks to draw the votes of the religious right, among others.
His campaign has run ads in Mr. Buchanan’s magazine, the American Conservative, and is preparing ads criticizing the president for not backing former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who last year placed a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. Mr. Moore was subsequently removed from the bench for his action.
“We do disagree with some Bush policies,” Mr. Peroutka said. “He is the man that so many people look to and he claims to be a Christian. I don’t judge his heart, but there are things he could do, for example, as far as abortion and he simply hasn’t. We question whether the commitment is there.”
Mr. Peroutka is a wealthy man who stands to make a mark on the president’s vote share, said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, which tracks the access of third-party candidates.
Further, Mr. Winger added, the Democrats stumbled when they spent so much money trying to keep Mr. Nader out of the race and ignored Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb.
“The conventional wisdom is that Cobb hurts Kerry,” Mr. Winger said. “But the Democrats haven’t done anything to hurt the Green Party, even though Cobb will be on as many ballots as Nader.”