Michigan US Representative Justin Amash said Saturday he was rejecting his offer to become a presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party – a week before the party’s National Congress.
The decision comes just under three weeks after the five-year-old congressman formed an exploratory committee for the president on April 28.
“After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that the circumstances are not conducive to my success as a presidential candidate this year and therefore I will not be a candidate,” Amash tweeted.
Amash said his decision was based in part on limited opportunities for “lesser-known” candidates to secure media opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic and media resistance to third-party candidates.
“I continue to believe that a candidate from outside the old parties who offers a vision of government based on freedom and equality can break through in the right environment. But that environment presents extraordinary challenges,” wrote Amash.
“Polarization is at near all-time highs. Election success requires an audience willing to consider alternatives, but both social media and traditional media are dominated by voices strongly averse to the political risks of a viable third candidate.” , he added.
“Today, most Americans are understandably more interested in what life will be like tomorrow than in broader political debate, and the coverage has reflected those priorities. At the same time, the fundraising challenges of an underutilized economy will hamper advertising.”
Political analysts had said a libertarian offer from Amash could complicate President Donald Trump’s plans to repeat his 2016 victory in Michigan or harm Biden by removing former vice president’s votes in battlefield states.
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said Amash would not have made much of a difference in Michigan in the 2020 election either.
“We’re too polarized and divided about Trump for a third-party candidate to do particularly well,” said Sabato. “Amash seems to have recognized this with his withdrawal.”
In announcing his decision, Amash also referred heavily to me about the “continuing uncertainty” regarding the ratification of the online vote for the upcoming libertarian convention, the feasibility of access to ballot papers in all 50 states and the question of unity behind the eventual candidate. “
“We need to address these issues as a party to ensure we maximize our potential,” wrote Amash.
He thanked supporters and said he continued to invest to help the party become an “important and consistent contender to win elections at all levels of government”.
The former Republican joined the party a month ago and became the first ever libertarian in Congress.
Gregory Stempfle, chairman of the Michigan Libertarian Party, said he was disappointed to see Amash get off and predicted he could have won the nomination.
“It still looks like he wants to actively promote the libertarian party. There is a possibility that he will continue to run for Congress and I hope he will,” Stempfle said on Saturday.
“I think everyone – including those who didn’t want him as a candidate – would support that.”
Amash suspended his re-election campaign in the US House of Representatives in West Michigan in February, saying he has no intention of returning to that campaign.
But he has several weeks to change the course and complete a sixth semester. Michigan’s August 4 pre-registration deadline is July 16 for independent and third-party candidates.
Vermin Supreme, a leading candidate for the libertarian president nomination, urged Amash to stay the course in Congress.
“All of us on Team Supreme look forward to @justinamash winning re-election as a libertarian and electing hundreds of other libertarian congressmen. The Speaker of the House, Amash, is helping me get my presidential agenda off the ground!” Supreme tweeted on Saturday.
Amash, 40, is a former Grand Rapids area lawmaker. He supported Trump’s impeachment and left the Republican Party on July 4th after years of clashes with the GOP leadership and frustration over bipartisanism in Congress.
He was independent of any party until he officially joined the libertarians last month.
Amash has long said he wouldn’t go after the White House if he didn’t believe he was going to win.
According to UVA analysts, third parties have great chances in presidential elections, as individual candidates have received four times more than 10% of the vote since the end of the civil war.
Libertarian Party’s candidate Gary Johnson won about 3% of the vote in 2016 – the best performance of any libertarian since the party’s inception in 1971.
Amash was considered the front runner but wasn’t the firm favorite to win the libertarian presidential nomination on Memorial Day weekend, party activists said in recent days.
The Kentucky Libertarian Party conducted an informal poll of a quarter of the confirmed delegates on May 10, and Amash received nearly a third of the vote in the first round. In the end, however, he won after 10 voting rounds.
Amash had taken part in debates and forums, organized town halls and reached out to individual delegates in order to win them over.
But libertarians are generally independent thinkers, and some had serious questions about Amash’s last-minute campaign, including the party’s pro-choice faction, which is unhappy with its stance on abortion.
Nor was Amash the longtime party member that some activists hoped to run their ticket, though he impressed many with his transparent style, principled record, and ability to grab the attention of the national media.
The latter was a big selling point for members hoping his run in the White House would spark public interest and build the party’s ranks into a greater political force.
Some delegates were expected to oppose a Republican libertarian candidate, but there are precedents for such decisions, including Gary Johnson in 2016 (former Republican governor of New Mexico) and former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr in 2008 and Ron Paul in 1988.
Libertarians also grumbled over Amash’s year-long joke about a presidential bid. Some said he waited too long to enter the race and skipped state conventions. Another leading contender, Jacob Hornberger, called Amash an “intruder”.
Amash has said he is in the party to stay and wants to help it grow, arguing that this could be a “strong competitor” for the two big parties. He advocated a pragmatic, incremental approach to bringing others into the libertarian community.
“I’ve been a libertarian all my life. A little libertarian,” Amash said in a recent debate.
“I think if you work within government you have to make the changes that will convince people to come by your side.
“You have to present them with libertarianism on the issues that are important to them or that preoccupy them. It cannot be an overnight experiment in which we revise the whole of society or our entire government.”