Helping Hands

BryklynLibrul demands speculation about the possible impact of a third party wanker ticket: "If this turns out to be serious, who does it help, the GOP or the Dems? Idle speculation at this point, but I'm curious to know what MY and others think."

The cop-out answer is that it depends on who the nominees are.

But taking a wide-angle view, the rise of a serious third party challenge typically signifies the collapse of the incumbent governing coalition. Certainly Perot in 1992, Wallace in 1968, and Roosevelt in 1912, Van Buren in 1848 fit that pattern, and Strom Thurmond in 1948 probably does as well. But that's not to say that the third party insurgent always helps the challenger party. The Humphrey-Nixon race in '68 ended up extremely close and it seems reasonable to assume that the bulk of the Wallace vote would have gone to Nixon (as it did in 1972) had he not been in the race. And it can get even more complicated, as Perot's presence in the 1992 race probably helped Bill Clinton win the election but there's good reason to think he could have won even without Perot, and in a one-on-one fight maybe could have secured a majority and thus had a stronger hand dealing with congress in 1993.

Now, of course, the weird thing about Bloombergism is that there's no sign that he's filling an open ideological niche. Pat Buchanan, by contrast, drew half a percentage point in 2000 at a time when his campaign didn't really have much of a rationale. By 2008, immigration is going to be a higher-salience issue, economic populism will have a larger constituency, and nationalist anti-war sentiment will have gone unrepresented in mainstream politics throughout years of failed war-fighting. You could imagine either Buchanan or, perhaps more likely Ron Paul, having a real impact. Otherwise, there's really nothing doing.