The lone Virgil Goode campaign sign on a stretch of Virginia road was far outnumbered by placards promoting Mitt Romney.
That Goode’s sign was there at all in this pivotal state served as a reminder that plucky third-party candidates such as the Constitution Party’s nominee could muck up the works on Election Day. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is daring unsatisfied voters to “waste” their vote on him in the 48 states where he’s on the ballot.
“I hope to rain on the party. And by that I mean the two parties,” Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, told The Associated Press on Saturday as he wrapped up his late swing through battleground Ohio after a college-town push in Colorado. “I hope to rain on it big-time.”
Some polls have shown Johnson and former Virginia Rep. Goode, two not-long-ago Republicans, as primed to pull down more votes than the difference between President Barack Obama and Romney in critical states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia. Experts caution, however, that the overall tightness of the race tends to work against third-party candidates in the end as voters migrate back to the main nominees.
In every presidential campaign, there is talk about a credible alternative emerging to seriously test the Democratic and Republican nominees. Aside from Texas billionaire Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign, the phenomenon has seldom panned out in recent times.
The aim among the 2012 hopefuls seems more about roiling the two-party system.
Johnson is running a late batch of TV ads and airing them during the cheaper off-hours in only a half- dozen states.
Goode can’t afford TV. His low-budget campaign has meant driving from state to state and staying in discount hotels. He’s concentrated mainly on Virginia, where he held state or federal office until his congressional defeat in 2008.