Ironically, even though the new bill never came into effect, Arizona Republicans won't have a Libertarian problem this year: Their candidates in the battleground 1st and 2nd Districts have one-on-one matchups against Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber. But a few other third-party candidates could add an unpredictable dimension to several key House races around the country.
In Illinois, Green Party nominee Paula Bradshaw is running again in the 12th Congressional District, which has become one of House Democrats' key races. She got 6 percent of the vote in 2012, though Democrat Bill Enyart still won a comfortable majority of the vote. But Enyart is now one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents in the House of Representatives, and Bradshaw's presence on the ballot may reduce his already small margin for error against Republican state legislator Mike Bost.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the DCCC decided to spend more money on TV ads in the 2nd District, where President Obama only got 43 percent of the vote in 2012. But the party is betting on two things in one of the most difficult-looking seats it's chasing in 2014: First, that the district's old-line Democrats are still willing to vote for one of their own, the Clinton-supported former mayor of North Little Rock, Patrick Hays; and second, that a Libertarian on the ballot may cut into Republican French Hill's support on the right.
Similar scenarios are scattered throughout this year's battleground statewide elections, too. A Libertarian pizza-delivery man in North Carolina, Sean Haugh, has consistently polled in the high single-digits in the state's Senate race, a close contest between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis in which both have faced a historic barrage of attack ads. Third-party candidates often play especially large roles in Alaska, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich won his first term with less than half the vote and is on a four-man ballot this election. And there's also Kansas, where Greg Orman could become the second newly elected independent senator in two years. Democrat Chad Taylor dropped out of the race in September after party members urged him to let Orman consolidate support against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
In Maine, independent Eliot Cutler finished a close second in the 2010 gubernatorial race, but he's running in third place this time—which could help keep the man who bested him last time in office. GOP Gov. Paul LePage hasn't topped 42 percent of the vote in any public poll and is persistently unpopular, but he's still running a close race against Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud. Like in Kansas, an Alaska independent is now leading the charge against that state's Republican governor as opponents sought to consolidate support behind one candidate. Florida's gubernatorial race also features a Libertarian who has attracted significant support in recent polls, as GOP Gov. Rick Scott and former GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, trade harsh attack ads.
Back in New York, Woolf, the Democrat, dismissed Funiciello as a threat. "My strong sense is when people go to the polls on Nov. 4 and they look at the very real consequences of their choices, we'll have a lot of support."
Indeed, third-party candidates almost never get as many votes as preelection polls show. But it doesn't take much to get Democratic and Republican strategists alike reaching for their antacid.