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Blogs / Decoded

The Third-Party Myth

General Accountability Office Comptroller General David Walker is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 29, 2008.(AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

February 21, 2012

When the specter of a third-party candidate is raised, inevitably the names that arise most often all fall in the same mold - good-government types with inevitably liberal views on social issues. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the most frequent name that gets bandied about. The latest flavor-of-the-week is former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, who has been advocating for entitlement reform.

But in reality, third-parties only thrive when there's a political vacuum to be filled. Despite being a nominal independent, Bloomberg's views aren't much different than your average Democrat. Walker's stand on entitlement reform is embraced by many of the leading Republican pols, led by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

But it's that mix of social conservatism with economic populism that doesn't get as much of a hearing as it should, based on Americans' political views. As my colleague Ron Brownstein noted in his column last week "each side's electoral coalition is now bound together far more by shared cultural values than by common economic interests."

That means Republicans, increasingly dependent on the support of blue-collar voters, are campaigning on cuts to popular entitlement programs that may rankle some of the GOP rank-and-file.  And it means that Democrats can't effectively win over these voters with populist appeals because the party's views on litmus test cultural issues, like immigration and abortion, are well out of step with their personal beliefs.

That's why former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode's third-party presidential candidacy should be receiving more attention. The Democrat-turned-Republican congressman is campaigning on a platform of reducing immigration (legal and illegal), protecting Social Security and Medicare and balancing the budget immediately.

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