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What Role Could Third-Party Candidates Play In This Year’s Election?




I VOTED stickers are seen at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on November 6, 2018 in Irvine, California on election day.
I VOTED stickers are seen at a polling station on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on November 6, 2018 in Irvine, California on election day.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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In close elections, it doesn’t take much for third-party candidates to play an outsize role — as Democrats learned the hard way in 2016.

President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes that year while left-leaning Green Party candidate Jill Stein netted over 51,000 and Libertarian Gary Johnson won 172,000. In Wisconsin, Trump won by about 23,000 votes, fewer than Stein’s 32,000. And in Pennsylvania, Stein’s 49,000 votes eclipsed the margin by which Trump defeated Clinton. Victory in those three states catapulted Trump into the White House. As he seeks another term amid a pandemic and sudden Supreme Court vacancy, there are questions about whether third parties could play a similar role in this year’s high-stakes election. Today on AirTalk, we talk through the options and what’s at stake. We also want to hear from listeners. Are you considering voting for a third-party candidate or writing someone in on the ballot? Who and why? Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722. 

With files from the Associated Press

Guest:

Julian Zelizer, American political historian and professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, his latest book is “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party” (Penguin Press, 2020);  he tweets @julianzelizer