Along the Tracks

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A McCain third-party run

I posted this in Tom Maguire's comment section:

After reading a fair amount of the blogging and columns on a McCain-Lieberman ticket's chances, I've seen a) why many Republicans wouldn't vote for McCain; b) why the media wouldn't give him the "free ride" he gets now; c) why he couldn't mount an effective effort in the battleground states (cash poor) and d) why third party candidates so rarely succeed (Duverger's law). While all these rest on some solid facts, they don't add up to "can't win."

A) McCain doesn't need "many Republicans," just the big-tent moderates. If the GOP nominates a social conservative, he'll own those - maybe 10-15% of the electorate. Mostly, he'll target moderate Democrats, who are likely to feel unwanted in Howard Dean's party - maybe 25-30% of the electorate. Yes, half of all Democrats, and MOST Democrats in swing states which are by their nature middle-of-the-road. That's a minimum of 35-40 percent of potential voters, easily putting McCain-Lieberman in striking range.

B) The media may not give McCain a "free" ride, but they will keep ticket prices low, just to goad conservatives who can't stand McCain. The MSM won't be able to help themselves, even if it hurts the Democratic ticket's chances.

C) This one is true - at present. However, the 2004 Democratic primaries proved the Internet's power as a fundraising tool. Brendan Nyhan says the Internet is not a constituency; true, but it is an ATM.

D) Duverger's Law, as Kaus points out, says nothing about "who" the top two candidates will be. I agree with Mickey that McCain-Lieberman could well push the Democratic ticket into also-ran status. In the above comments, Crank noted Teddy Roosevelt's third-party run. Roosevelt pushed the GOP to also-ran status in 1912, and only a united Democratic Party was able to defeat him. McCain would split both parties, improving his chances.
All the above, of course, depends on what plays out with the Republican and Democratic races after 2006. Still, there is nothing "innate" about the situation which denies McCain the White House.

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