Do Third Party Candidates Actually Hurt Hillary Clinton More Than Trump?

Hillary Clinton in New Zealand, November 2010. Photo by U.S. Embassy.

Do third party candidates actually hurt Hillary Clinton more than Donald Trump? That, according to Eric Pianin in the Fiscal Times, is exactly what recent polling data suggest:

According to the new national survey released Wednesday, Clinton leads Trump, 45 percent to 41 percent, in a hypothetical matchup among Democratic and Republican voters. But Clinton’s lead shrinks to just 40 percent to 38 percent – well within the poll’s margin of error – when the Libertarian and Green Party candidates are added to the mix.

Johnson, a former businessman who stressed concerns about the public debt and spending excesses during a previous Libertarian Party bid for president in 2012, garnered five percent of the national vote in the new Quinnipiac poll, while Jill Stein, the liberal Green Party nominee, picked up three percent.

In the breakdown of the poll, Johnson drew four percent of the Republican vote, two percent of the Democratic vote and 10 percent of independents. Stein, a physician and two-time candidate for governor of Massachusetts, drew one percent of the Republican vote, three percent of Democrats and 7 percent of more liberal-leaning independents.

On the surface, this seems more than a little odd. If conservatives are voting for a third party and not Trump, that must, one would think, hurt him more than Hillary. But look more closely at the polling: It’s the “independents,” not the conservatives, who are presumably the ones at play. This actually isn’t too surprising considering how unpopular both Hillary and Trump are with independents. But why are so many independents leaving Hillary for a third party?

The answer, I believe, is Benghazi and the e-mail scandal. When faced with having to choose between Trump and Clinton, a lot of people would choose Clinton. They just can’t stomach the thought of voting for someone perceived to be as insensitive as Trump. But, given almost any other option, these same people would choose neither. An honest, kind, war hero would probably do very well as a third party candidate in this race, and I think once Hillary settles things with Bernie and she and Trump really start to go at it, it’s entirely possible even more Americans will begin to move toward whoever the third party candidates are.

Where is Ralph Nader when you really need him?

Photo: Hillary Clinton in New Zealand, November 2010. Photo by U.S. Embassy.