The Presidential race remains on track to be close, a contest where small things could make a difference. History shows an obvious difference-maker are third party candidates.
Yet, apparently Public Policy Polling (PPP) is the only pollster that realizes the 2012 ballot will include "third parties," because it alone seems to poll the Presidential race by offering names beyond Romney and Obama. And PPP finds that third party candidates importantly change numbers. In addition to Governor Johnson of the Libertarian Party, former Congressman Virgil Goode is moving numbers, at least in the critical state of Virginia, where his former Congressional district is located.
PPP's latest survey of Virginia has Obama leading Romney 51 to 43 in a head-to-head race. But former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode is the Presidential nominee of the far-right Constitution Party. When he is included in the polling question for Virginia, Obama falls to 50%; Romney drops further to 38%; and Goode gets 5%. www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/05/obama-tops-romney-by-8-in-va-even-with-mcdonnell.html#more.
How important is Goode's possible impact? It could be crucial, even if Goode's numbers shrink closer to the election, as they likely will. Goode is drawing about 5 votes from Romney for every one vote he pulls from Obama in Virginia so, even if Goode gets 2% of the vote in Virginia, he could tip the state.
Governor Romney can win the Presidency without capturing Virginia, but it becomes really difficult for him. For example, an Obama win in Virginia means that he could lose either Pennsylvania or Ohio and still win the election. Obama winning both Virginia and Colorado, a state where Governor Johnson and Goode both could be factors, makes Romney's climb Everest-like.
The PPP poll shows that Congressman Goode hurts Romney in Virginia and by so doing could impact the entire 2012 outcome, as Ralph Nader did by swinging Florida and New Hampshire to George Bush in 2000. Goode will also be on the ballot in Colorado, probably Pennsylvania, and other states, though he will have much less impact beyond his home state of Virginia.
Given their historic impact of third party candidates, and the PPP data so far this year on Johnson and Goode, it is bewildering why most pollsters are not testing consistently the key third party candidates and why most media analysis is oblivious to the importance of third party candidates. PPP's results document that polls that fail to do so have another source of error.