Tuesday, November 05, 2002

One minor but interesting indicator to keep an eye on tonight: third party votes. No one believed that the 2000 election would be so close. Everyone believes that the 2002 elections willbethiscloseorcloser. How many of Nader's 2000 voters will feel driven back to the D column? How many Senate races are tipped by Greens or Libertarians? Look for the L vote to exceed the D-R gap in NH Senate, Mass governor, GA Senate, MO Senate, but maybe not SD Senate since the L suspended campaigning and endorsed Thune. Look for significant D defection to the Greens in CA gov, as disaffected lefties decide that Gray has a lock on the race. Golisano in NY gov & Penney in Minn gov are special cases; their vote totals are going to be big and therefore, for current purposes, uninteresting. Keep an eye on those 1%-5% candidates. In general, we have a test of the idea that voters feel pressed to vote major-party when the election is close. Those who vote third-party today are either really determined, or really convinced that the two majors don't differ enough on the issues important to them. The SD dropout shows that not even all candidates are that determined; but a lot of voters still are.

If today we end up with a 48-48 nation instead of Kaus' 50-50 nation, then Ds & Rs come under immediate strategic pressure to get those third-party votes; and this is tricky to do while keeping overall positions near the median. (The Ds can't go green, or embrace L drug legalization; the Rs can't swing very far toward L posiitons on taxes and spending.) There were Rs who noticed this in 2000 and blamed the Ls for costing them the Senate. This time either Ds awill blame Gs or Rs will blame Ls for costing them the Senate; and the major parties will start to devote staff and resources to neutralizing these threats to their flanks. Bad news would be D-R collusion in tightening of ballot access requirements, as happened after John Anderson's 1980 campaign. Useless news would be denouncing the third parties, as the Ds have been doing to Nader for two years now. (Today's third party voters aren't going to be swayed by denunciations; they'll be alienated by them.) Interesting news would be major parties trying to co-opt selected minor-party issues that they don't think will be noticed by or scary to centrist voters.

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