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Beltway Confidential

Talk of Sarvis-the-Spoiler misses the mark

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Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Terry McAuliffe,Ken Cuccinelli,2013 Virginia Governor Race

A Democrat won the governor's race in Virginia with less than 50 percent of the vote, while the Libertarian candidate pulled in 6.5 percent, so there's plenty of talk blaming libertarian Robert Sarvis as a spoiler, handing the race to high-tax, big-government, crony capitalist Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

This talk is off-base, because most talk of spoilers is off-base.

Trust me, I wanted Ken Cuccinelli to win. I think he would have been the most libertarian governor in the country, and like me, he's a pro-life, big family Catholic. I thought the libertarian attacks on him amounted to the triumph of identity politics over substance.

But still, blaming Sarvis is off-base.

First, there's the math of the matter. If Sarvis hadn't run, and if you presume all his voters would have voted for Cuccinelli or McAuliffe, "Cooch" would have needed to get 70 percent of those voters to win.

In reality, many Sarvis voters were moderates and liberals disenchanted with both candidates, casting a "none-of-the-above" vote by choosing Sarvis. Sean Davis at the Federalist walks through some of the numbers on their site.

But here's a more basic point: nobody's votes belong to either party. If Cuccinelli wanted libertarian votes, it was his duty to win them. While I think libertarians should have voted for him, many Virginia libertarians disagreed.

The notion that right-leaning or pro-limited-government votes belong to the GOP is corrosive.

If you want to discourage a challenge from your flank, strengthen your flank.

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