The Perot-Nader-Paul axis

What these three seemingly unrelated pols have in common is an appeal concentrated in the West.

Published August 4, 2008 6:37PM (EDT)

Patrick Ottenhoff, the superb curator of the Electoral Map, has a good post up today charting Ron Paul’s donations. Where are they? Out in the libertarian west. Ryan Sager, author of the book "The Elephant in the Room," has long argued that the GOP had better watch its libertarian flank. Though Ottenhoff focuses on Nevada, and with cause, I think the effect could be broader and affect also down-ballot races.

Paul belongs squarely in a camp along with fellow alternative candidates Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, who also registered some of their highest levels of support in 1992 and 2000, respectively, in a set of mostly Western states. Indeed, one of the reasons I am confident that McCain is not going to have that much trouble in the South, despite the fact that his conservative conversion of 2007-08 is viewed suspiciously by many Republicans (including if not especially Southern Republicans), is that the tradition of third-party performance in the South, which in the 20th century began with Strom Thurmond and continued through George Wallace, has largely abated. (Notice that Paul got little traction there this year, either, which is probably not surprising given his opposition to a war supported at the highest rates by Southerners.)

The region of the country exhibiting the strongest third-party tendencies and, thus, potentially most up for grabs in the near and long-term future, is once again the West, and especially the interior West.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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