President Donald Trump gleefully cheered Rep. Justin Amash’s decision to run for president as a Libertarian, suggesting the third-party bid would help him win reelection.
The president stoked liberal fears that Amash could siphon votes away from Democrats like Green Party candidate Jill Stein did in 2016.
“I think Amash would make a wonderful candidate,” Trump tweeted. “I like him even more than Jill Stein!”
Liberals and #NeverTrump conservatives alike erupted in anger at Amash’s announcement. They agree that his run could help Trump win reelection by winning votes of Trump critics that would otherwise go to Democrat Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee.
“The wrong thing to do,” wrote George Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer, husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and ardent critic of Trump.
Despite Trump’s effort to stir division among his opponents, it’s not at all clear whether Amash’s run would help or hurt Trump.
Conventional political wisdom says that right-wing third party or independent presidential campaigns hurt the Republican candidate by siphoning votes that would otherwise go to the GOP.
Similarly, left-wing parties, like Stein’s Green Party, are thought to be bad for Democrats.
In the 2016 race, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Stein both won more than enough votes to swing the race in several close states. But it’s difficult to say whether either one helped or hurt Trump.
Biden has publicly commented on Amash’s run so far.
A tea party conservative with a powerful independent streak, Amash quit the GOP last year and backed the impeachment of Trump.
He faced a tough reelection fight in his Grand Rapids, Mich.-area district as angry Trump supporters ditched him. If Amash follows through on his presidential run, the GOP-leaning seat would be up for grabs in November.
Amash could play an especially pivotal role in the presidential vote in his home state of Michigan, which was one of three Rust Belt states that Trump famously won in 2016 to clinch his upset victory.
Biden has led Trump in virtually all recent head-to-head polls of Michigan. Critics of Trump fear that adding Amash into the mix in a state where he is fairly well known could scramble the equation. A similar calculation could apply in battleground Wisconsin, where Trump is trailing Biden by a narrower margin.
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