Traditionally, third-party candidates receive next to no attention in presidential races, mostly because it is an accepted truth that one could never win an election. However, this year a third party might shake things up; not by outright winning the election, but by receiving enough votes to affect who the final winner (either Romney or Obama) will be.
One name that is often floated for a third party run is Ron Paul. Paul, an ardent libertarian and Republican in name only (RINO), still remains as a candidate for the GOP nomination, although the race is almost over and he has not yet won a state. Paul will stay in the race as long as he can out of a desire to preserve the discussion about liberty and isolationism, but many among his feverish base (which is estimated to be about 10 percent of the population) insist that he run as a third-party candidate. If Paul did run in the general election, the result would be Obama being handed a landslide reelection, as Paul would siphon away much of the Tea Party vote from Romney. Paul knows this, and despite his consistent ideology and political independence, he still wants Barack Obama to be defeated in the fall, so he has done everything he can to signal that he will not run on a third-party ticket while still leaving the option officially “open” merely for appearance’s sake with his base.
A much more likely third-party ticket, and one that could potentially see much success, would be a far-left candidate. To be frank, Obama has not exactly lived up to his egalitarian and charismatic aura that made him the darling of the far-left back in 2008. Obama has disappointed the liberal base of his party time and time again: his refusal to support gay marriage, his folding to the Republicans on tax increases, his failure to create a public option for health insurance, etc. In any other election year, fringe liberals would likely just brush Obama’s shortcomings off as bipartisanship. However, the Occupy movement instilled much furor among the far-left; while that Marxist insurrection effectively died (and by that, I mean lost any resemblance of support from the mainstream) nearly as soon as it had begun, its lasting effect can be seen among the many liberals who now see Obama as not being that much better than the Republicans. Such resentment is surely to the delight of far-left third parties, like the Green Party, who are hoping to recapture the Marxist spirit of the Occupy movement and run a candidate who can steal a slice of the liberal vote away from Obama.
If a sizeable portion of the Democratic base decided to go with a liberal protest candidate in November, then Obama’s chance of being reelected would disappear. This race between Obama and Romney is going to be extremely close and any problems among either of their respective bases (Obama with liberals and Romney with conservatives and Tea Partiers) would dramatically affect the outcome. Since the conservative goal in this election is more about replacing Obama than electing a true conservative, the right wing of the Republican Party will fall in behind Romney. But with Obama trying to move more and more toward the center, I see the possibility of a liberal third-party ticket as something that Obama should be concerned about.