Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When you add Nader and Barr, Obama has double-digit lead

Via Bowers, we have this graph from Pollster.com:

It shows Obama at 49.6% and McCain at 38.1%, whereas their chart without third parties has Obama at 46.4% and McCain at 42.3%. Given that the presence of third-party candidates seems to be benefiting Obama, Bowers thinks Obama should debate Nader and Barr to raise their profiles:

The answer, I think, is just to debate them. Next month, Obama should propose including Barr, Nader and McKinney in one of the presidential debates. This seems like a no-brainer that would benefit Obama no matter what McCain said in response:

  • Obama could frame the proposal as looking for discussion and solutions from all parties. Given that both he and McCain are trying to look bi- / post- / non-partisan, making this proposal is any easy way to back up that narrative.
  • If McCain accepts, then he is once again following Obama's lead. If he declines, then he looks chicken, not to mention unwilling to debate people with a wide range of viewpoints.
  • The third-party candidates will be the undoubted beneficiaries of a debate where they are included. Neither of the major party candidates can hope to gain as much from the debates as the third-party candidates. For example, consider how Perot's numbers shot way up after he first appeared in a debate back in 1992. Further, they will all probably receive a large influx in donations, thus helping them maintain their gains in the debates.
  • Even if the debate ends up only being Obama and the third-party candidates, it will still receive an enormous amount of coverage that will improve the standing of Nader, Barr and McKinney. The cable news nets will carry it live, even if the networks don't. Even news organization will run a top story on the debates.
In short, whether or not McCain accepts the debate, it will still receive a wave of free media that will help Nader and Barr (and maybe McKinney) in the polls. And, as the above numbers indicate, this election simply isn't close when Nader and Barr have decent showings in the polls. Further, just proposing the debate will make Obama look open to discussion from all quarters. There is nothing to be lost here, and a lot to gain.
Many of Bower's commenters disagree. I think perhaps this early in the race, 3rd party support is over-stated. But the Ron Paul folks may go for Libertarian Barr, and they are a highly-motivated group of people and I bet there are enough to make a difference.

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