McCain-Lieberman 2012? It Could Happen

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mccain-liebermanOver the course of the race for 2008, it was often quipped that were are “waiting for Perot” with regard to the dearth of a meaningful third party candidate in the race. The pun, of course, referenced the play,

 “Waiting for Godot,” which involved two characters waiting in vain for a third character (Godot) who never manages to show up.

The Perot of 2008, it was suggested, would fill the vacuum in a race between Bush Republicanism and a standard issue Democratic ticket by providing voters with a small-government, anti-war alternative. Had Ron Paul decided to run third party in 2008, he probably would have filled that void, though in the end, the market for a third party candidate dried up as Obama managed to present himself to the public as an ideologically amorphous managerial candidate whose claim to fame was that he wasn’t George W. Bush.

As we approach the race for 2012, the market for a third party candidate once again has the potential to develop depending on how things play out over the next couple of years as each major party struggles to find its voice in post-Clinton, post-Bush America.

The Democrats appear to be moving decidedly leftward, embracing bigger government, more central planning, more debt, cultural bossiness on issues like the environment, and a traditionally liberal foreign policy. The GOP could go in a variety of directions in response to all of this, with its final destination yet to be determined. R

epublicans could go the conventional route and nominate a Sarah Palin, who will likely call for more tax cuts, social conservatism, and military involvement in the Middle East, thus making the Republican Party seem no better than the Democrats to the growing throngs of voters who want less government both at home and abroad. Or the GOP could nominate the candidate most dissimlar to President Obama in former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who, like Ron Paul, wants the U.S. out of the Middle East, and wants to scale back government in both the economic and cultural arenas. Or Republicans may decide to nominate a Romney to run from the center-right and talk both about modest tax cuts and modest deficit cuts, leaving an opening for a fire-breather to run third party.

As such, there are three potential major third party candidates that I can see rising in 2012. In the event of the nomination of a perceived mushy moderate – say, a Romney-style bean-counter – Sarah Palin would have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being the candidate who garners 12 percent of the vote by running on the “Tea Party” ticket. Should both parties nominate candidates who couldn’t care less about spending/debt/deficits and who fail to recognize the growing America-First sentiment within the general public, someone like Gary Johnson could easily run a more mainstream version of Ron Paul’s campaign and make a real splash in the general. Finally, should both John McCain and Joe Lieberman decide that their respective numbers are up when it comes to re-election to the U.S. Senate, these two larger than life personalities just may go for broke and launch an independent third party run regardless of the GOP’s choice of nominee in 2012.

This scenario isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Polling suggests that former Rep. J.D. Hayworth would give Sen. McCain a run for his money in a GOP primary for McCain’s Senate seat. And Lieberman’s dismal 25% approval rating in Connecticut makes retirement seem more likely than re-election. As such, these once and future presidential candidates, ever thorns in the side of their respective parties, may decide to go out not with a whimper, but with a bang.

The once and possibly future positions of McCain and Lieberman would allow the two to fill the void that will exist on many domestic issues should President Obama continue his current course and should Republicans nominate someone who insists on running using the GWB playbook. McCain’s past opposition to tax cuts, combined with Lieberman’s current opposition to ObamaCare, will allow the two to run as the eat-your-vegetables candidates on fiscal issues, promising to tackle the nation’s fiscal woes with serious action on spending, the deficit, and the national debt. This would create a stark contrast between the McCain/Lieberman independent ticket and the platforms of the two major parties, with Obama running as the tax-and-spend candidate and with Palin (or whoever) running as the tax-your-kids-and-spend candidate. The growing numbers of Americans sick of hearing giddy optimism from tax-cutting Republicans and entitlement-creating, nationalize-everything Democrats would respond well to the sobriety and prudence of a message that doesn’t involve kicking the can of fiscal ruin yet farther down the road.

On social issues, Obama has demonstrated that the supposed freedom-loving Democrats will run as the recycle-or-die party, and while social conservatives and libertarians have reached entente at present, a presidential campaign, complete with a few national issues that get under libertines’ skin, has the potential to cause a rift to resurface, which would create a market for a leave-me-alone third party. Neither McCain nor Lieberman are social libertarians, but both are especially hands-off when it comes to social issues, with neither demonstrating an interest in using government to advance his respective party’s social agenda.

The major stumbling block for McCain/Lieberman would be foreign policy and international issues. It’s hard to find a reason that a hawkish third party ticket would be needed when both major parties will likely be running on continued military involvement in the Middle East. And McLieberman has not exactly been the best friend of Lou Dobbs voters who may feel that neither party takes them seriously on immigration. The one opening I could see for McCain and Lieberman in this area would require Obama to preside over a series of foreign policy failures, and for the GOP to nominate a candidate not particularly well versed in military issues, thus making McCain seem like the obvious choice to lead the nation out of the mess. Further, if the Democrats pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, the issue will be taken off the table for the Arizonan.

The notion of two senators at odds with their respective parties, each nearing the end of his career, giving the establishment a run for its money via a third party presidential campaign may seem absurd. But stranger things have happened. Like Sen. McCain’s hero, Teddy Roosevelt, both of these maverick senators have long been defying the conventional wisdom. If the Democratic Party continues to lose the public trust, and if the Republican establishment insists on a traditional check-the-boxes Republican campaign, and if Obama’s approval rating continues to drop, and if blood continues to be spilled and treasure continues to be lost at home and abroad, all bets are off.

{Free Republic/Noam Newscenter}


  1. i cant believe somebody actually wrote this article. john mccain is not going to get elected president as a 76 year old man. thats a ridiculous notion. anybody who keeps up with republican politics knows that the gop is gonna go for new, young, conservative blood – therefore disqualifying lieberman, palin (for sure) and probably even gingrich. my bets are on tim pawlhenty or bobby jindal.

    mccain lieberman — it couldnt and wont happen.

  2. Agree with 6 – od yenuvun b’seivah doesn’t exactly apply here. But if they can do good in other ways, together or separately like the other thread, kol hakavod.

    I think people also don’t know what’s going on with Lieberman on the left. The smear campaign is not something that the country should be subject to. Let him stay in CT, or in the cabinet if that comes up.

    Let’s just hope that whoever is nominate
    Actually, let’s just hope that Moshiach comes
    But if not by then, let’s just hope that whoever the GOP nominates is better vetted than Ms. Palin. She was NOT ready for prime time then. Maybe to be the keynote speaker and brought again 4, 8, years later. But what a fiasco that was.

  3. Bob Barr as the major 3rd part candidate, he was a republiican who ran for the libertarian nomination against wayne root and ran a campaign for president.


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