The third party conundrum

For me, and surely for many other Republicans, one of the most powerful arguments in favor of nominating Rudy Giuliani is his appeal to moderates, which has enabled him to run reasonably well in head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton. I have fretted, however, that Giuliani’s prospects against Clinton might be undermined by a third party, pro-life candidate.
That concern is supported by a Rasmussen poll which found that 27 percent of Republicans would vote for a third party candidate if Giuliani were the party’s nominee. In this scenario, according to the poll, Hillary Clinton captures 46 percent of the vote, compared to 30 percent for Giuliani and 14 percent for the third party candidate. With no third party option, Rasmussen finds that Giuliani trails Clinton by only 48 to 43 percent.
I don’t for a minute believe that 27 percent of Republicans actually would vote for a third party candidate if Giuliani were nominated. But let’s suppose it’s one half of that number. Giuliani is still toast. Indeed, I’m not sure he could be competitive if 9 percent of Republicans (one-third of Rasmussen’s number) defected to a pro-life candidate. And even if there is no third party candidate, the disapproval of Giuliani by more than one-fourth of Republican voters (if the Rasmussen results paint an accurate picture) seems like a very bad sign.
Early in the campaign, I observed that John McCain is disliked by many more conservatives than Giuliani, but fewer conservatives would probably be unwilling to vote for McCain in a race against a Democrat. So I’m guessing that the nomination of McCain, who also seems to appeal to moderates, would be less likely to produce a third party candidate and, if it did, would siphon off fewer Republican voters.
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