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Who Benefits From A Justin Amash Third Party Presidential Bid — Biden, Or Trump?

Rep. Justin Amash, an independent congressman from Michigan, announced on Tuesday that he’s taking the next step forward in possibly running for president as a third-party candidate.

Amash explained that he’d run as a Libertarian in this year’s contest, if he chose to run at all.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

“Today, I launched an exploratory committee to seek the @LPNational’s nomination for president of the United States. Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” Amash wrote in a tweet.

As is common with most third-party bids for the presidency, the criticism that comes to people’s minds is that they mostly act as “spoiler” candidates. That is, a third-party candidacy can siphon off votes from a candidate, resulting in their loss to another within a state or in the entire national election itself.

But Amash’s candidacy bucks those conventions because it’s unclear to whom he may be a spoiler.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Libertarians generally hurt Republicans in electoral politics. But these are unconventional times.

It’s possible that standard will remain in place, and that Republicans who reluctantly feel like they must vote for President Donald Trump again will instead consider Amash. But at the same time, it’s possible that a segment of those Republicans may have been considering supporting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

It’s possible, however, that if Amash runs, those wayward Republicans who were thinking about casting a ballot for Biden will instead vote for the Michigan independent instead. In that way, The Libertarian candidate could, unconventionally, be a spoiler for the Democrat.

Polling numbers from Michigan seem to back up this possibility. Although the numbers are from a poll taken last May, in a head-to-head matchup in Michigan from that poll, Biden led Trump by 12 points at that time. But when Amash was thrown in as a potential third-party choice, that lead by Biden shrunk to just 6 points.

Most of the “shrinkage,” too, was from supporters of the Democrat going for Amash, rather than supporters of Trump, the Republican, dissipating: Biden lost 8 points of support when Amash was included, while Trump only lost 2 points.

Those numbers are based on a single state’s preferences, and notably, the home state of Amash. In other words, it doesn’t stand to reason that he’d be as big a contender in other states.

But the data does seem to indicate that Amash wouldn’t necessarily be a standard spoiler for the Republican candidate, if he indeed chooses to run. And in states where the margins are much tighter, it’s possible that an Amash run could wind up hurting Biden’s chances of winning the presidency come November.



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