COULD TOM FRIEDMAN ELECT SARAH PALIN?
I really don't believe that a Friedman-pipe-dream third-party candidate, even one financed with Mike Bloomberg-level cash, could win the 2012 presidential election, but I still think (as I've said before) that such a candidate could split the non-insane vote and throw the election to a crazy extremist like Palin. Now Hot Air's Allapundit, responding to a typically methodical Nate Silver post on the third-party question, notes another way Friedman's hypothetical centrist dreamboat could elect Sarah Palin:
Note Silver's reminder that if no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes in a three-way race, it falls to the House -- which is likely to be controlled by the GOP -- to select the new president. Does that mean we should welcome a third-party candidacy, especially if the Republican nominee looks weak? It's the Coons/Castle/O’Donnell dynamic all over again, except this time the GOP (probably) gets to decide things if no one reaches 270. Fun!
He's right -- if the GOP does control the majority of House delegations, and no presidential candidate wins 270, House Republicans will absolutely pick the Republican nominee -- even if he or she finished second, or third.
I know, I know: could a third-party candidate win even one state, the only way this scenario could transpire? Nate sees a third-party bid as a longshot, but much less of one than in most years, given the strong possibility that Obama will still be saddled with high unemployment and the GOP nominee will be an extremist. Beyond that, I'd say a well-funded third-party candidate could make a serious go simply because the pundit class will find the notion so exciting. Mark Halperin is getting a thrill up his leg at the notion that Donald Trump may run for president; without comment, he quotes an interview in Time in which Trump says,
"I have never had any interest [in running for office] before. If I ever did, this would be the time. That's not to say I have interest, but if I ever did, this would be the time, because we've never had a country that's sunk and that's gone to levels as low as it is right now."
(Never mind the fact that Trump considered running for governor of New York in 2006 and announced in 1999 that he would challenge Pat Buchanan for the 2000 Reform Party presidential nomination. In fact, Trump considers and rejects a run for office almost as often as Ted Nugent. But Halperin takes the notion of a Trump run seriously, although he also has dreams of a Bloomberg-Petraeus ticket.)
Pundit-think may contain within it the seeds of its own destruction, however. Nate Silver mentions a number of plausible reasons why a third-party candidacy could take off, but he also mentions some not-so-plausible reasons:
There is one major issue -- the national debt -- that neither party has much credibility on. A candidate who presented a "serious" plan to balance the budget could possibly gain traction that way....
There are two further issues, energy and immigration, where voters are unhappy with the status quo, but which appear to be in political stalemate.
We may have nothing to fear in this regard simply because a third-party centrist -- Bloomie or Bayh or Trump or Petraeus or whoever -- is likely to believe the Friedmans and Broders and actually think that the way to win is to offer detailed proposals on immigration reform and cap-and-trade and (just you wait) a 50-cent-a-gallon gas tax. That's the kind of stuff the pundits always want. And the public says it would like some stalemate-busting solutions ... until possible solutions are actually proposed. Then the public howls.
So that's how an effort like this could die. And that's probably a good thing.