Amash should easily win the Libertarian nod at the party’s May convention despite his late entrance. Delegates are not bound to support any candidate, and he is easily the most recognizable person running. Former Republican Party officeholders have been nominated in each of the past three presidential elections, and Amash is well known in libertarian circles as a true believer. Vermin Supreme is not going beat Justin Amash.
Amash probably won’t make an impact on the race despite the likelihood that he can garner media attention. Libertarian presidential candidates typically receive less than 1 percent of the vote. That number went up in 2016 because of Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity, but even then the Libertarian nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, received only a bit more than 3 percent. Democrats are united in their hatred of Trump, and the president’s relatively orthodox Republican policies have satiated most GOP voters. Amash will attract some die-hard Never Trump Republicans, but it’s hard to see how he obtains even 2 percent on Election Day.
Ventura is a different matter. The former pro wrestler shockingly won as the Reform Party’s candidate in 1998 by attracting disaffected voters from both parties. He campaigned as an anti-establishment candidate and governed as an independent moderate during his one term in office. He would likely reprise that approach should he get the nomination; his announcement that he was looking into the Green Party nomination specifically stated that he was “an independent” and that neither major party was “the solution.”
Ventura is less likely than Amash to get a nomination. The Green Party is a left-wing group that backs Medicare-for-all and emphasizes its support for gender equity as a key value. Green Party delegates can be bound to support a particular candidate in accord with the results of a state primary election. Party co-founder Howie Hawkins currently leads in the delegate count, and with the convention scheduled for early July, Ventura will have to jump in quickly to have a chance.
But if he does win, he could have a bigger impact on the race than Amash. Ventura is a charismatic performer, a craft he learned and honed during his wrestling career. He has a long record of opposing both parties and is distinctly nonideological. He could easily appeal to the infamous Bernie Bros, whose support for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders may have less to do with socialism and more to do with the senator’s vociferous iconoclasm. He could also appeal to non-college-educated voters who voted for Trump in 2016 because he wasn’t Clinton but returned to the Democratic Party in 2018. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden needs the lion’s share of both groups of voters to defeat Trump. Any appeal Ventura might have for these voters will damage his chance to win.
That prospect won’t bother Ventura. He tweeted in late January that he would never support Biden, who he said would “lose to Trump no matter what the DNC controlled polls say.” Ventura’s tweets since then have emphasized climate change and opposition to big corporations. He has also retweeted posts from RT America on the U.S. “military industrial complex” and opposing Trump’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan. Ventura’s tweets attack the idea that voting for a third-party candidate would simply reelect Trump, arguing instead that both parties are corrupt and that people should vote for the person they want rather than settle.
It won’t take much for Ventura to have a serious impact. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee in 2016, received only about 1 percent of the vote, but she drew more votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania than Trump’s margin in each state. Simply holding those votes would damage Biden; doubling or tripling that number could cripple him.
Justin Amash has a clear and consistent worldview while Jesse Ventura does not. But don’t be surprised if political analysts are talking a lot more about Ventura’s effect on the race come October.