The Games Major-Party Candidates Play with Third Parties

From the WSJ:

THIRD-PARTY SENATE CANDIDATES could play key roles in some of the fall’s closest contests—in some cases with the help of a major party candidate. In South Carolina, where Democrat Jaime Harrison has run close to Sen. Lindsey Graham with the help of record-shattering fundraising, Harrison has paid for digital ads that use reverse psychology to promote Constitution Party candidate Bill Bledsoe, calling him “Too Conservative” for the Senate, a bid to get Graham voters to defect to Bledsoe. Graham’s campaign seems to have recognized the risk—Bledsoe dropped out of the race and backed Graham earlier this month, and Graham quickly promoted the endorsement. But Bledsoe’s name remains on the ballot.

Harrison is employing an oft-used tactic by Democrats in red states, said nonpartisan election analyst Dave Wasserman: “Try to lower your threshold for victory to ~48%.” A similar dynamic is at play in Maine, where Sen. Susan Collins narrowly trails Democrat Sara Gideon in polling averages. Collins is expected to be at a disadvantage because of the state’s ranked-choice voting system, where candidates outside the top two finishers have their votes reallocated to the top two based on voters’ second choices. Independent candidate Lisa Savage has urged her supporters to list Gideon as their second choice, while Max Linn, another independent, asked his voters to rank Savage second, depriving Gideon and Collins of extra votes.

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