One of the things that pundits of marginal intellectual heft who are mostly into politics for the bloodsport like to say is that anyone who votes for a third party candidate in November is basically voting for Hillary. Politico reported yesterday that our old boss Erick Erickson was meeting with some people in D.C. yesterday in an attempt to fire up a third party bid as a contingency plan for a Trump nomination. As a result, our contact form inbox was flooded with angry emails from dozens of Hannity listeners all making this “point.”
The argument, if you can call it that, would not be tremendously persuasive if it were true. However, we don’t really even have to engage that, because it turns out that it’s not true. In order to believe that this were actually true, you’d have to just not understand how elections work in America.
See, it would be true if, for instance, Donald Trump had to reach some arbitrary threshold (like 50%) in the general election in order to win all the electoral votes for that state. But that isn’t how it works. If Trump gets 35%, and Hillary Clinton gets 34%, and Rick Perry gets 31%, Trump wins exactly the same as if he had beaten Hillary 80%-20% straight up.
So the simple fact is that it matters to Trump in equal measures that a) you vote for him and b) you don’t actually vote for Hillary. Voting for a third party candidate deprives Trump of positive outcome a) but allows him to preserve the equally important positive outcome b).
Let me illustrate this with a hypothetical state that has exactly six residents.
Imagine that the first five residents all go vote, and the result is Donald Trump 3, Hillary Clinton 2. Right now, Trump is leading 60%-40%. Last guy is trying to decide how he’s going to vote. Trump would probably prefer that last guy votes for Trump, giving him the 67%-33% win. However, if the last guy is making a decision between voting for Hillary (which would result in the race ending up a tie) and voting for Third Party candidate Rick Perry (resulting in Trump winning the state 3-2-1), or just not voting at all (resulting in Trump winning the state 3-2), Trump would sure as hell rather have the guy vote third party (or not vote) than actually vote for Hillary.
So, if you are a Trump supporter, then someone voting third party is not as good as someone voting for Trump, but neither is it as bad as someone actually voting for Hillary. Not by a long shot.
And anyone who tells you differently is either not very smart, or trying to sell you propaganda, or both.
Personally, if I were in the position of someone who really wanted Trump to win, I would prefer that people not learn this truth, and so I’d stop saying it. I know that if Trump gets the nomination, the likelihood that I’ll vote for a third party candidate will depend on whether I believe that he’s going to lose regardless of what I do. In that case, I will happily cast my third party protest vote and vote for all the other Republicans on ticket. If I think he might actually win, then I might have to take the more drastic step of considering a vote for Hillary, which I promise you would be worse for Trump’s chances.
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