Libertarian nominee Chase Oliver denies being spoiler — history says differently

‘You can’t spoil something that’s already rotten,’ presidential candidate tells ‘Politically Georgia’ hosts
The Libertarian Party picked Chase Oliver, a former Georgia U.S. Senate candidate, as its presidential nominee on Sunday. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The Libertarian Party picked Chase Oliver, a former Georgia U.S. Senate candidate, as its presidential nominee on Sunday. Miguel Martinez /

Georgia resident Chase Oliver is the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, but historical polling data shows he will not win the election.

What worries most presidential campaign officials — and what Oliver rejects — is that he will draw away votes from the two major parties.

“We can’t be a spoiler because you can’t spoil something that’s already rotten,” Oliver said Tuesday as a guest on the “Politically Georgia” podcast, where he talked about his presidential bid.

But would Oliver’s candidacy more likely spoil the election for President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump?

“In the environment we’re in right now, that’s a question that’s hard to answer,” said David Chastain, former executive director for Georgia’s Libertarian Party. ”Are people going to be voting for things or against things? For people or against people?”

Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University, said Libertarian candidates historically have drawn votes away from the Republican in the race.

Even still, Libertarian voters don’t stretch far. Just 1.2% of Georgia voters chose the Libertarian ticket in 2020. Across all 50 states, the party didn’t draw more than 2.6% of votes.

“Libertarians in Georgia, and in most places, are spoilers,” Swint said. Because Georgia law requires candidates to win a majority of votes, “they force runoffs and never get elected to anything outright,” he said.

“Their main impact is to elect Democrats,” he said.

In the U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, Perdue topped Ossoff 49.7% to 47.9%. But Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel received 2.3% of the vote, forcing a runoff that Ossoff won.

But it’s not only winning the White House that Oliver is after.

“We can win ballot access in states all over the country, including Georgia,” he said, adding that Libertarians are also running in local races and supporting a third-party presidential candidate can increase their visibility.

Chastain, who served as campaign treasurer for former U.S. Rep Bob Barr’s Libertarian campaign in 2008, said third parties can also be successful when their issues make their way onto the Democratic and Republican platforms.

“Somebody starts talking about something and all of a sudden, a major party says, ‘Well, this isn’t as crazy as we thought. Let’s look into it,’ ” he said, using decriminalization of cannabinoid oil as an example.

In reality, though, Swint said that rarely happens.

“Some of the Libertarian Party’s issues are conservative and Republican. Some of the Libertarian Party issues are leftist and Democrat. It’s a mixture of different policy positions,” he said. “That’s one reason it’s hard for them to get much attention — people really don’t know how to understand the Libertarians.”

Both Biden and Trump are unpopular candidates, polling shows. Even under these circumstances, it’s still uncommon for people to vote for a third party, Swint said.

“The data shows that that’s more talk than action,” he said. Voters “either hold their nose and vote for the candidate they hate the least or they just don’t vote.”

Brian Robinson, a spokesperson for Nathan Deal when he was governor, said he’s more concerned about the impact of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running as an independent candidate, on Republican chances than Oliver, who few voters know.

“Yes, he was on the ballot in recent years, but no one remembers that,” Robinson said of Oliver. “There’s no money behind his name, as far as advertising dollars, which is crucial. The vast majority of Georgians will never know that a Georgian is on their ballot for president.”

In theory, Kennedy “could get a lot more votes than what we’ve traditionally seen for third parties,” Robinson said.

“This is an election where the double haters will be decisive. The voters who don’t like Trump or Biden, that’s a lot of voters when you look at the fact that both of them have approval ratings in the 30s,” he said. “If they hate them both enough, they can go and cast their ballot for a harmless third party that they don’t even know.”