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November 16, 2002
JOHN J. MILLER ON THE REPUBLICANS' SOUTH DAKOTA SENATE DEFEAT:
There's a similar explanation for Mr. Thune's 524-vote loss: a Libertarian Party candidate, Kurt Evans, drew more than 3,000 votes. It marks the third consecutive election in which a Libertarian has cost the Republican Party a Senate seat. If there had been no Libertarian Senate candidates in recent years, Republicans would not have lost control of the chamber in 2001, and a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority would likely be within reach. . . .
The problem also affects gubernatorial races. Jim Doyle, the incoming Democratic governor of Wisconsin, probably owes his 68,000-vote victory to the 185,000 votes cast for Ed Thompson, a Libertarian and brother of Tommy Thompson, the former Republican governor. In Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, the Democrat, won by 33,000 votes as Tom Cox, the Libertarian, pulled in 56,000 votes. The only reason the governor's race in Alabama was so close this year as to be disputed beyond election night was that the Libertarian candidate, John Sophocleus, attracted 23,000 votes.
Well, the solution is for the Republicans to avoid the big-government intrusiveness that alienates libertarian-leaning voters. But are they smart enough to realize that? The push on the Homeland Security bill, and Trent Lott's comments about reopening the abortion issue, suggest that they're not. But this is how third parties traditionally have an impact -- by costing one of the two major parties close elections.
UPDATE: Robert Prather has more. Clayton Cramer, meanwhile, thinks this is much ado about nothing.