Virgil Goode, an anti-immigration southerner, and Gary Johnson, a pro-marijuana southwesterner, have little in common, save one thing: They both are seeking to shake up the American presidential race as third-party candidates.
While they have no chance to win the Nov. 6 election, the tight race between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney may create the right circumstances for one of them -- or both -- to pull just enough votes in a key state to sway the contest.
The greater risk is for Romney, whose chances of winning the battleground state of Virginia may diminish with Goode, a Democrat-turned-Republican and former U.S. House representative from the Old Dominion, on the ballot.
“If he’s going to hurt anybody, he’s going to hurt Romney,” said Quentin Kidd, government department chairman at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, who added that Goode’s vote will amount to a “haircut” for Romney. “Is the haircut enough to hurt Romney in the final vote count? If Virginia stays as close as it is right now, it’s possible.”
Johnson’s best chance of upending either candidate’s bid is in Colorado, where a marijuana-legalization initiative likely to draw voters sympathetic to him will be on the ballot on Nov. 6. In a Public Policy Polling survey conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, Obama led Romney 49 percent to 46 percent in the state. When Johnson was included in the choices, he drew backing from 5 percent, with Obama’s support falling 3 points to 46 percent, and Romney’s down 2 percent.
Obama’s campaign is monitoring Johnson’s candidacy, without sounding alarm bells. They see him as taking equally from both candidates in Colorado and damaging Romney more in most states.