Spoiler candidate alert: Libertarian Robert Sarvis is a third-party candidate in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race. Although polling reveals that it is unlikely for him to win, will he split votes away from Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the process?

Election day is less than 60 days away, and Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe are in crunch time.  However, neither candidate option fully satisfies voters. According to a recent poll of likely voters, only 34% of likely voters hold McAuliffe in a “favorable” opinion, and only 35% hold Cuccinelli in this regard.

Reflecting the mood of the Virginia race, Barton Hinkle likened the choice to “choosing between Sauron and SpongeBob Squarepants.”

For Virginia voters torn by this dilemma, Robert Sarvis may be an exciting prospect.  Born and raised in the Northern Virginia area, he possesses a background prime for Virginia politics. Impressively, he received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, went on to receive a degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, a J.D. from N.Y.U School of Law,  and a Master’s in economics from George Mason University.

Sarvis champions the campaign slogan, “Virginia: Open-minded, and Open for Business.” According to his campaign website, he espouses ideals of personal and economic freedoms. Having a mixed race heritage, he promises to bring diversity to the position.

However, despite his impressive background, it is unlikely that Sarvis offers Virginians a plausible alternative winner.

Notably, his greatest obstacle is that as a third party candidate, he does not command the same media spotlight or campaign spending dollars as McAuliffe or Cuccinelli. For example, he was not invited to a recent Virginia gubernatorial candidate debate.

But, will Sarvis be to blame if Cuccinelli loses the election?

At this time, Cuccinelli seems likely to lose whether Sarvis runs or not. For evidence, compare polling data that pairs only Cuccinelli and McAuliffe against each other, to data that includes all three candidates. When only Cuccinelli and McAuliffe are paired, McAuliffe is in the lead at 48%-42%. Meanwhile, data that includes all three candidates depicts McAuliffe at 45.2%, Cuccinelli at  37.3%, and Sarvis is a distant third at 9.5%.

Judging by this criteria, it appears that McAuliffe is the front-runner, with or without Sarvis, for the time being. However, as the momentum of his campaign picks up, this may change in the future.


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