None of the above: The third way.
President Obama has never been particularly popular in West Virginia, and the results from this May’s West Virginia Democratic Presidential primary show one possible outcome when folks vote against a candidate. Barack Obama was not the only Democrat on the ballot in West Virginia’s Democratic Presidential Primary this year. Keith Judd, an unknown convicted felon received 41% of the vote, just because he wasn’t Barack Obama. My assumption, which I believe is reasonable, is that 41% of West Virginia Democratic voters didn’t care who Keith Judd was. They just wanted to express their displeasure with Obama, and essentially voted “none of the above.” I’ll call this the “Judd Effect.”
This suggests to me an interesting possibility for this Fall’s general election. With all of the negative advertising I expect will be cranked out by both sides between now and election day, I would not be surprised if a significant percentage of voters will be sick and disgusted with both of the major candidates. If there were actually a “none of the above” option on the ballot, they would take it.
The thing is, in my experience, there is always some or another third-party candidate on the general election ballot. Frequently, there have been several, and invariably I never heard of any of them before seeing the ballot itself on election day. This year is no exception, except I’m better informed ahead of time. Where I live and vote, I’m sure Gary Johnson’s name will appear as the Libertarian Party candidate. And, there may be others that I don’t know about yet. Thus, the “Judd Effect” may come into play.
In 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton won the State of Kentucky with less than 50% of the vote. I believe that Clinton would have lost Kentucky in both elections, but for the third party candidacy of Ross Perot.
Ross Perot attracted a lot of support in Kentucky, and I suspect that he appealed to conservatives more so than liberals, with the result that Perot took more votes from G.H.W. Bush in 1992 and from Bob Dole in 1996. Perhaps he took enough Republican votes to tip the balance, with some similarity to the effect that Ralph Nadir had upon the outcome in the Florida 2000 election, which was dramatic. Florida 2000 was very close, and it didn’t take much to tip the balance.
If the Judd Effect kicks in this year because some voters are sick of both major candidates, will “none of the above” tip the results one way or another? I don’t know. My best guess that the Judd effect will have more impact in very close races, like Florida 2000, and less impact in states like Kentucky, which went for McCain in 2008 by a wide margin.
Kentucky is a lot like West Virginia. Eastern Kentucky is exactly like West Virginia in all significant respects. It’s my best guess that third party candidate would need to take about 250,00o votes away from Romney for Obama to win the state like Bill Clinton did in 1996, and that is a long shot.
But, for what it’s worth, the Obama campaign started to run ads on cable TV in Louisville, Kentucky in June. By the middle of July I saw my first Romney cable TV ad. Frankly, I was dumbfounded when I first saw the Obama ad, thinking that it was a monumental waste of money. There’s no way Obama will win Kentucky, so why bother. Why would Romney follow suit? I’m not aware of any Presidential polling data for the state, and polls which include Gary Johnson are rare.
Maybe the two campaigns are thinking of the Judd Effect and are hedging their bets in Kentucky. Sometime long shots pay off. Long shots definitely pay off best.