NEW YORK – Facing a likely choice between Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential race, many Americans are desperate for younger, less controversial options.
A large and potentially consequential market for third-party candidates — a market not seen since the 1990s — is a stark reminder that under Trump and Biden, both major parties are likely to nominate unusually unpopular candidates.
Their potential rematch of the 2020 elections comes as the nation grapples with economic anxiety, a sharp political divide, a controversial US-backed Israeli attack on Gaza and widespread calls for a new generation of US leadership.
About 63% of American adults currently agree with the statement that the Republican and Democratic parties do “such a poor job” of representing the American people that “a third major party is needed,” according to a recent poll by Gallup. This represents a 7 percentage point increase from the previous year and the largest since Gallup first asked the question in 2003.
Biden and Trump face primary challengers but are expected to emerge as their party’s candidates in 2024, despite deep concerns about Biden’s age and Trump’s string of federal and state criminal charges.
No third-party candidate has won modern U.S. presidential elections, although they have sometimes played outsized roles as spoilers in taking votes from the major party candidates.
In 1992, billionaire businessman Ross Perot won 19% of the vote, likely handing over the White House to Democrat Bill Clinton over incumbent George HW Bush.
Political activist Ralph Nader received less than 3% support in 2000, but took enough votes from Democratic candidate Al Gore in Florida to give George W. Bush victory in the state, and with it the White House.
Now, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and scion of the Democratic dynasty who launched an independent presidential bid in October, could get 20% in a three-way race with Biden and Trump.
Kennedy is supported by the “American Values 2024” SuperPac, which has raised more than $17 million for his candidacy from several deep-pocketed donors, including a former Trump supporter.
American Values 2024 on Tuesday hosted an event aimed at black and Latino voters in midtown Manhattan that drew about 40 people, including several who couldn’t identify Kennedy’s core policies but said they valued his disruptive potential.
“We have been looking for a rebel since Barack Obama. We thought he was a rebel, then we thought Bernie Sanders was a rebel. So we thought Trump was a rebel. Now we know, of course, that RFK is a rebel,” said Larry Sharpe, former libertarian candidate for governor of New York, who attended the event.
Both parties expressed concerns about Kennedy’s candidacy. Democrats fear his famous nickname and anti-corporate, pro-environment policies will resonate with some of his voters. Republicans fear that his anti-vaccine rhetoric and popularity on conservative platforms could draw away some of their support.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll and others have shown that Kennedy benefits fairly equally from Republicans and Democrats in a three-way race. However, Democrats take nothing for granted.
“Our general view is that anything that divides the anti-Trump coalition is bad. And so any option you offer voters who simply cannot vote for Trump other than Joe Biden is problematic,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the center-left Democratic group Third Way.
Tony Lyons, co-founder of American Values 2024, told Reuters that Kennedy should not be considered a danger just to Biden or just Trump. “He is a danger to a corrupt two-party system that is not doing things to help the people in this room,” Lyons said at the Manhattan event.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said: “Polls show President Trump absolutely crushing Joe Biden, even with other candidates in attendance, both nationally and in swing states.”
The Biden campaign declined to comment, leaving third-party criticism to outside groups like Third Way, concerned that an outside candidacy could hand the election to Trump.
‘PEOPLE WANT BETTER CHOICES’
As money flows into third-party options, Biden and Trump are raising even more. The president and his allies raised $71 million last quarter and Trump raised $45.5 million.
No Labels, a third-party political group, has already raised $60 million for 2024 and qualified for the ballot in 12 states, including the swing states of Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina — without a candidate in place.
“We’ve been trying to get the pulse of the electorate for the last two years and it keeps telling the same story, which is that people want better choices,” said Ryan Clancy, chief strategist at No Labels, a bipartisan group that is mounting its first candidacy. presidential election after a few years of support for moderates in Congress.
The group has been courting former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who recently announced he will not seek re-election to the Senate.
Asked whether he is considering a run for the White House, Manchin on Wednesday told NBC News: “I will do everything I can to help my country.”
Clancy said No Labels plans a nominating convention in April and will select a presidential ticket if a rematch between Biden and Trump appears inevitable and if it believes its candidates can win.
Other third-party candidates are seen as less of a threat. Cornel West, a black philosopher and social leader, is also running as an independent and hopes his brand of openly progressive politics will influence the 2024 debate.
Jill Stein recently announced that she will once again run for the White House as a Green candidate. West and Stein are expected to receive a negligible share of the vote and will have difficulty getting on the state ballot.
In a recent interview with ProPublica, Biden was asked about his former Democratic colleague Joe Lieberman’s work with No Labels to identify and support a moderate third-party candidate. Biden noted that Lieberman has a democratic right to do so, but added, “Now, this is going to help the other guy, and he knows (that).”