Could there be four candidates for president on your ballot in November, 2016? It has been more than 20 years since Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate in 1992, and even longer since John Anderson challenged Ronald Reagan, but Atlanta lawyer and Republican National Committeeman Randy Evans floats the possibility of a four way race in a recent opinion piece he wrote for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
His choices for third party candidates are Bernie Sanders on the left, and Rand Paul on the right.
In the Democratic Party, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders challenges the Democratic nomination frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Notably, although elected as an Independent, Senator Sanders caucuses in the U.S. Senate with the Democrats and is running for the Democratic nomination for president.
Senator Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist. Previously, he was a member of the Liberty Union Party. But the most significant fact about him is his ability to rely on a steady number of similarly politically situated Americans. In the race for the Democratic nomination, his polling numbers are consistently high enough to make a difference.
In the Republican Party, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul challenges a Republican nomination field which has no clear frontrunner. Although elected as a Republican, Senator Paul is often also identified with the Libertarian Party — standing strong on issues like the Patriot Act that put him at odds with mainstream Republicans.
And so, an interesting possibility emerges. What if Senator Sanders decides to nonetheless seek the presidency as the nominee for the Liberty Union Party and Senator Paul decides to seek the presidency as the nominee of the Libertarian Party? Such a combination could capture a sizable share of the votes cast in the general election.
According to Evans, third party candidacies are more likely in 2016 than in other presidential years because of a combination of factionalism and increased visibility via social media and the Internet. Indeed, on the left, we’ve seen Sanders supporters pushing a very progressive agenda that can make presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton look like a centrist. On the right, we’ve heard threats by conservatives to sit out the presidential election if an establishment or moderate candidate ends up being the GOP nominee.
Is Evans’s theory possible? And if we did end up with four candidates as he postulates, who would be most likely to emerge the winner on November 9th, 2016?