Category Archives: Politics

Third-party scenario 2012

Consider this hypothetical scenario — not altogether implausible – that I have tasked to my American Government students analyze on their final exam. It adds color to the question David Gregory posed to Ron Paul on Meet the Press (12/11/11). The key question is bolded in #2 below. COMMENTS WELCOME!

June 2012. A lengthy, divisive primary contest concluded, Romney wins narrowly to clinch the Republican candidacy for President in 2012.  Undaunted, Rep. Ron Paul announces he will continue his campaign through the general election as the Libertarian Party candidate, together with billionaire Mark Zuckerberg (CEO on leave from Facebook) as his Vice President candidate. The Libertarian ticket of Paul/Zuckerberg (PZ) enjoys strong support from fiscal conservatives and libertarians sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. It appeals to many Occupy Wall Street supporters including young, unemployed males and affluent professionals. With Republicans divided over their nominee and Democrats less enthusiastic about Obama than ever, the environment appears promising for the third party campaign.

Assignment: PZ Campaign Manager Carol Bartz (ex-Yahoo CEO, UW-Madison grad) has hired and tasked YOU to write a strategy memo based on your knowledge of American government. The Libertarian party aims to build a national organization capable of impacting the 2012 election, expanding its support without losing its core, and winning the Presidency in 2016. The U.S. political system presents certain challenges and obstacles to this sort of campaign. Analyze these challenges and obstacles, and assess Libertarians’ prospects for success, as realistically and precisely as possible, as follows: 

  1. Generally, what has been the history of third party campaigns in 20th century U.S. elections?
  2. What role do political parties play in American elections? What would the Libertarian party need to do to endure as a major force beyond 2012? Assess the chances for success.
  3. How does the Electoral College (EC) work? What does a third party need to do to win EC votes? Polls show 15% of US voters now support PZ. Consider which areas, demographics to target.
  4. In what ways does today’s media environment offer opportunities and/or pose challenges for a third party Presidential candidate?


  1. Fundraising: We will need $150 million to fund our campaign operations through November. Please advise on the legality and political advisability of each of these four potential avenues that we are considering:
    1. Industry PACS (petroleum, bankers groups, Chamber of Commerce). Advisable?
    2. Mark (Zuckerberg) is worth $17 billion. Is it legal for him to give $150 million? Smart?
    3. Find 150 donors among the 1% of wealthiest Americans. Soros, Gates, etc. can easily do $1 million. But is it legal? How can we make that work for the campaign?
    4. Grow small donor base. Which segments to target? What positions to attract them?

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