Spoiler alert: Could a third-party candidate help Trump win in 2020? President Trump has happily waded into the intraparty feud between Hillary Clinton and Rep.
Tulsi Gabbard, not just to criticize his 2016 opponent but to defend the honor of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate blamed by many Democrats for Clinton’s defeat in 2016. With Election Day just over a year away, the topic of potential third-party spoilers entering the race has been raised.
Clinton also attacked Stein, saying, “She’s a Russian asset — I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate. So I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed.”
“Crooked Hillary Clinton just called the respected environmentalist and Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, a ‘Russian Asset,’” wrote Trump in a tweet over the weekend. “They need a Green Party more than ever after looking at the Democrats disastrous environmental program!”
Because Stein’s vote total was higher than Trump’s margin of victory in some critical Midwestern swing states, she has been labeled as a key to Republican victory.
But the data doesn’t back up the supposition that all of Stein’s voters would have gone for Clinton: They could have stayed home, opted not to vote for president or switched their vote to a different third-party candidate or even Trump.
Third parties had a strong overall showing in the 2016 election. Stein, Libertarian Gary Johnson and independent candidate Evan McMullin combined for over 5 percent of the vote, compared with just 1.5 percent for the third-party candidates in 2012. That opened the door for Trump to win with just 46.1 percent of the popular vote.