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Can a Third-Party Candidate Beat Trump?

Every once in a while, and it doesn’t happen often enough, but it does happen, I do my daily review of the political news and enjoy what the news has to say. And note that I refer to ‘news’ as what has been said, because in today’s media world what has actually happened and what a bunch of so-called experts say has happened is one and the same thing.

Be that as it may, today’s political news had two stories which rubbed me the right way. One story is about a new poll which shows that Trump is headed for the veritable garbage dump, the other is about what would happen if someone ran a serious, third-party campaign.

So, let’s start off with Trump.

A new poll from Monmouth University has Trump’s overall favorability rating down to 36%, the lowest it has been since Monmouth started running this poll every month since September, 2019.

This same poll, incidentally, doesn’t have such great news for Joe, who’s favorability rating is 43%, but at least he’s still doing better than Trump, whereas last year in this same poll the two guys were basically tied.

Given that we are still 16 months away from the 2024 election, we need to take every poll with multiple grains of salt. But Monmouth happens to be a polling operation which is seen as being more right than wrong. Their polls are usually correct and they are only one of three polling operations (out of 23 operations) with 100 or more polls which 538 rates as A or A+.

The Monmouth poll was taken before Trump received the letter from Jack Smith which notified him of what will probably be another indictment, and a fourth indictment is looming from Fulton County, GA. And despite the attempts of some of the GOP gang to promote the idea that the entire legal system is corrupt, most Americans still believe that getting called before a Grand Jury is something you want to avoid. You just can’t pretend that such a notification is like getting the news of a big, two-hour sale at Five Below on your droid.

The second story I rad this morning was even better than the first. This is another Monmouth poll which indicates that Joe is slightly ahead of Trump (47% to 40%) when it comes to 2024 support, but 30% of the poll respondents said they might entertain the idea of going for a 3rd-party candidate instead of either Trump or Joe.

But – and it’s a very important but – the positive feelings about a 3rd-party alternative in 2024 begins to disappear when a generic, 3rd-party alternative is replaced by actual candidate names. When the newly announced Manchin-Huntsman ‘No Labels’ alternative is added to the electoral mix, the 30% generic 3rd-party vote is cut in half, and the impact on the numbers both for Joe and Trump is evident, but slight.

Now one could argue that the Manchin-Huntsman campaign is just getting started, and if almost one-third of the Monmouth respondents claim they are open to a possible 3rd-party bid, then these results give Manchin and Huntsman plenty of room to move up.

So, I’m not saying that the news for Joe from the Monmouth poll is all good or is as good as it should be. But to steal a phrase from my old boss Stanley Fink, the Manchin-Huntsman numbers may not yet mean anything because nobody’s leaning on them yet.

On the other hand, those Palm Beach County votes stolen by Roger Stone which gave George Bush the win in 1980 would probably have been what Al Gore needed to end up on top, except that Ralph Nader picked up enough votes on the Green Party line to tilt things the other way.

I happened to meet Manchin at a fundraiser thrown for him by Mike Bloomberg at some point after his bi-partisan, gun-control bill co-sponsored with Pat Toomey went down to defeat. He impressed me as a pretty smart guy who didn’t seem to be at all intimidated by the high-and-mighty crowd which showed up at Bloomberg’s private residence on East 79th Street.

But Manchin has to know that in a Presidential election that will probably be decided by how a small number of voters cast their votes in a couple of swing states, that mounting a campaign which cannot make him President but could siphon a few votes away from Joe, is just something that as a member of the Democrat(ic) Senate caucus, he just shouldn’t do.

So, I’m still happy about this morning’s political news, but the situation is still so volatile that by tomorrow I’ll be all pissed off again.

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