By Darcy G. Richardson
However improbable, there might yet be a way to prevent Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump from obtaining the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the presidency as the 2016 presidential campaign enters the homestretch, says Reform Party nominee Rocky De La Fuente, the longest of long-shot candidates in this year’s presidential sweepstakes.
A couple of days ago, the 61-year-old San Diego real estate developer suggested a strategy in which the “Fabulous Five” — Libertarian Gary Johnson, the Green Party’s Jill Stein, Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party, independent Evan McMullin and himself — could theoretically capture enough electoral votes in the Rocky Mountain and adjacent states to deny Clinton or Trump an Electoral College majority and, while highly, highly unlikely, actually elect a President outside the duopoly.
De La Fuente, of course, is basing his improbable strategy on what would happen under the Twelfth Amendment if neither of the major-party candidates gets the necessary 270 electoral votes. In that case, the U.S. House of Representatives decides the presidency in a runoff between the top three candidates who received votes in the Electoral College.
It’s an idea that some Libertarians have been talking about for months, if not longer, but without a clear-cut strategy to make it happen; namely, the cooperation of the nation’s other minor-party candidates.
“Let’s assume for a moment that Trump squeaks out victories in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio and that Clinton sweeps the east and west coasts,” said De La Fuente. “If the Rocky Mountain States of Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico came into play along with the adjacent states of Arizona, Nevada, North and South Dakota with Alaska thrown in for good measure, Clinton would receive 249 electoral votes, Trump would receive 233, and ‘the House wins,’ as they say in Las Vegas.”
Even in a worst case scenario where Hillary carried Nevada and pulled out a win in traditionally-red Arizona, and Trump were to win a couple of those smaller Rocky Mountain states, De La Fuente’s proposal could still work — at least theoretically.
None of the “Fabulous Five,” explained De La Fuente, “have the resources to sweep the states I mentioned, but we could agree to use our best efforts to each win a few of them. Just as importantly, we could agree to throw our support to our designated candidate in each state to improve the probability of breaking up the duopoly’s hold on the presidency.”
In short, America’s “forgotten candidate” is proposing that he and his third-party rivals should put aside their ideological and political differences for the good of the country.
It’s an intriguing idea.
It’s also instructive to keep in mind that informal political alliances have paid huge dividends in the past, but really haven’t been tried by independent or third-party candidates at the national level.
In 1972, for example, antiwar candidates George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, the latter of whom had unseated a sitting President of his own party before losing the Democratic nomination to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey four years earlier, agreed to such a strategy with “Clean Gene” agreeing to stay out of the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary — the scene of his stunning performance against LBJ in 1968 — in exchange for McGovern’s backing in the Illinois preferential primary where Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, widely viewed as a prohibitive favorite to capture the Democratic presidential nomination, was expected to win handily.
Both candidates felt that the charming, craggy-faced senator from Maine, who had been Humphrey’s vice-presidential running mate in 1968, was something of a Johnny-come-lately to the antiwar movement and shouldn’t be the party’s nominee. “If Ed Muskie had lived at the time of the Revolution and been asked to take the ride Paul Revere took,” quipped McCarthy, “he would have arrived a day late, shouting, ‘The British were here! The British were here!’”
Except for Indiana’s Vance Hartke who polled a dismal 2,417 votes in the snows of New Hampshire, the other Democratic candidates strongly opposed to the war in Vietnam, including New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay who had recently switched parties, also subsequently agreed to stay out of the state’s widely-watched March 7th primary, thereby giving McGovern a clean shot at the party’s frontrunner.
McGovern surprised everybody by coming within nine percentage points of upsetting the heavily-favored Muskie in the Granite State, something that probably wouldn’t have been possible if McCarthy and other antiwar Democrats had actively campaigned there. Consequently, Muskie, who had led in all of the polls in the year leading up to the 1972 New Hampshire primary, was badly wounded by the South Dakota lawmaker and never fully recovered, making McCarthy’s candidacy in the March Illinois “beauty contest” two weeks later somewhat less important than it might have otherwise been.
In short, the informal McCarthy-McGovern alliance that year assured that the Democratic Party would nominate a genuine peace candidate to challenge President Richard Nixon in November.
For those dreading both a Trump or Clinton presidency — and there are tens of millions of Americans in that category — De La Fuente’s admittedly desperate Hail Mary might be the last remaining option.
It’s a novel idea, if nothing else. The point, of course, is to deny both major-party candidates an Electoral College majority.
For starters, De La Fuente suggests that his third-party opponents should virtually cede the state of Utah to Evan McMullin, the “Never Trump” candidate who is running virtually neck-and-neck with Trump and Clinton in the battle for that state’s six electoral votes. Whatever one might think of Mr. McMullin’s independent candidacy, that’s potentially six Electoral College votes that could be denied to Trump or Clinton.
“While this is a unique situation because of the demographics of Utah (which is heavily conservative and features a dominant Mormon population that aligns with McMullin, a BYU grad and former Mormon missionary), it provides an example of what could happen,” says De La Fuente, whose name will appear on the ballot in twenty states next month, including nine of the eleven states in what he playfully describes as his “Rockies Strategy.” In six of those nine states, De La Fuente will appear on the ballot as the nominee of his own recently-created American Delta Party and as an independent in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.
Similarly, Gary Johnson’s minor-party foes on the New Mexico ballot should immediately throw their support to the former governor, giving him a fighting chance of obtaining that state’s five electoral votes. This includes De La Fuente himself, who has already purchased 107 cable TV ads in New Mexico.
The Libertarian candidate, says De La Fuente, should also be given plenty of running room in neighboring Arizona, where an Emerson College Poll earlier this month gave Johnson 9 percent of the vote to Jill Stein’s one percent in a four-way survey, and perhaps Alaska, where Johnson has consistently been polling in double digits.
De La Fuente should probably also include South Dakota as a potential Johnson state, for both practical and symbolic purposes. Only seven other states, including his home state of New Mexico, gave the former two-term governor a higher percentage of the popular vote in 2012. Moreover, South Dakota was the home state of the late antiwar prairie populist and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern — a candidate 19-year-old Gary proudly supported that year.
Colorado, according to De La Fuente, is almost a perfect match for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. Though currently trailing Johnson in that crucial battleground state, the Harvard-trained physician and longtime environmental and health activist is now polling 5 percent in the Centennial State — a two-point improvement since August — while other minor-party candidates are garnering 2 percent, according to a recent Magellan Strategies survey released last Tuesday.
Given the publicity surrounding her recent arrest while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, De La Fuente also believes that the other candidates should stand aside for the Green Party’s standard-bearer in North Dakota.
In keeping with his pox-on-both-their houses strategy, De La Fuente proposed that Wyoming, arguably the most conservative state in the region, should be given to the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle.
Idaho could be something of a free-for-all, especially since all five candidates are on the ballot there, as is Scott Copeland of the ballot-qualified Constitution Party, but given the state’s relatively large Mormon population it could be a state where Evan McMullin does surprisingly well.
As for himself, De La Fuente would like the path cleared for him in Nevada, a state with an unusually large Hispanic population. The would-be Electoral College bandit would also like to personally take a stab at Montana, where he started stumping more than ten days ago.
A first-generation Mexican American, the deep-pocketed De La Fuente, who has already spent more than $7.3 million, mostly out of his own pocket, on his lonely quest for the White House — a more than year-long adventure that began with an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year — indicated more than a week ago that he’s thinking seriously of spending heavily on television advertising in the Las Vegas and Reno media markets in the final seven or eight days of the campaign. It’s an expenditure that could prove worthwhile if he’s perceived as the most serious challenger to the two deeply flawed major-party candidates in that Mountain West state.
In addition to Nevada’s growing Hispanic or Latino demographic, which is estimated at more than 28 percent of the population, there are thousands of disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters in Nevada who believe that they were cheated in that state’s Democratic caucuses earlier this year. Those voters, unfortunately, have no way of registering a protest vote by supporting the Green Party’s Jill Stein or by casting a write-in vote since Nevada is one of four states that has never allowed write-in votes for president. Stein, whose petition drive appears to have been the victim of fraud in Nevada, is not on the ballot there.
Unlike the rapidly-fading Johnson, whose austere economic policies will likely find little appeal among disenfranchised Sanders and Stein supporters in the Silver State, Rocky could be their most attractive option.
It’s a million-to-one shot, but De La Fuente is to be applauded for at least thinking outside the box — a quality rarely demonstrated by most of this year’s challengers to the entrenched duopoly, including a couple of whom won’t even agree to debate their minor-party opposition.
With arguably the lone exception of independent Evan McMullin in Utah, none of the third-party candidates currently pose a serious threat to Clinton or Trump and their goal of reaching the magical 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College.
However, by hammering out some sort of informal alliance that provides collateral sources of strength for each of the leading independent and third-party candidates in targeted states, the “Fabulous Five” could make the final two weeks of the most unpredictably bizarre presidential campaign in modern American history one of the most interesting ever. The national media would almost certainly have a field day with it.
I’m sure none of the other third-party candidates will seriously entertain Rocky’s rather unconventional, if not fanciful, proposal, but it’s nevertheless a bold and imaginative idea. One could even argue that it’s about the only remaining hope we have of defeating the duopoly and preventing a Clinton or Trump presidency, particularly at this late stage of this increasingly sad and sorry election cycle.