Now that I’ve dismissed the idea of Gary Johnson having much success as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, another possibility occurs to me. It seems to me that, if you’re an LP supporter, the best-case scenario is that Ron Paul runs as the LP’s presidential candidate with Johnson in the veep slot. That, I confess, would be a formidable ticket.
(I actually think Johnson-Paul would be a stronger ticket, but I don’t think that’s likely given Paul’s relative level of support. However, if Paul takes seriously his “personhood” pledge, that might preclude him from running with pro-choice Johnson.)
But how would that play out in the election? I predict it would play out roughly as the last governor’s race in Colorado played out. Due to a fluke, the frontrunner GOP candidate lost the nomination (after getting caught up in plagiarism charges). The man left for the job was Dan Maes, an inexperienced, incompetent bungler. Thus, Tom Tancredo entered the race with the bizarre Constitution Party. (I reluctantly pulled the lever for Tancredo, but in retrospect I think that was a mistake.) What happened? Maes and Tancredo beat the crap out of each other, leaving John Hickenlooper (a decent Democrat) to easily walk away with over half of the popular vote.
I think roughly the same thing would happen if the LP candidate actually got any traction. The Republican candidate would of necessity start spending resources trashing the LP candidate, who would respond in turn. In a battle between the Libertarian and Republican candidates to convince voters that the other guy is a total bastard, both sides would win. Given Paul’s newsletters, his foreign policy statements, the bizarre figures of the LP, Romneycare, etcetera, there’s more than enough mud to go around!
The most likely outcome is that Obama would walk away with an easy victory, stronger than ever.
And, to the extent that the LP gained any traction, that would serve to convince most Americans that, on the whole, Libertarians are totally crazy.
Moreover, the fight between the LP and the GOP might cost the latter important seats in Congress, leaving Obama with relatively stronger support there. (I’ve suggested elsewhere that the least-bad possible outcome in 2012 might well be an Obama victory with a strong GOP in Congress.)
Again, elsewhere I will argue that the LP is not worth supporting simply because of the ideas it promotes, and that is the most important issue. But, just on the level of partisan political strategy, I just don’t see how promoting a strong LP ticket (if such is possible) could accomplish anything but destruction.