WASHINGTON — They campaign in near anonymity, these third-party contenders who stand no shot at the presidency. Their supporters are castigated for wasting their votes. But don’t write them off just yet. In hotly contested swing states, their presence on the ballot may alter the course of the election.
In Virginia, where Mitt Romney and President Obama are running neck and neck, former Republican congressman Virgil Goode’s crusade for the Oval Office could draw conservatives and tip the state away from Romney. In “live free or die” New Hampshire, Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, is a wild card, potentially siphoning votes from both Romney and Obama. And in Colorado, where a marijuana initiative is on the ballot, Johnson’s support for legalizing marijuana could hurt Obama among young voters.