Justin Amash, a Michigan congressman and vocal critic of Donald Trump, has ruled out a third-party run for the White House, paving the way for November’s election to be a two-man race between the president and Joe Biden.
Mr Amash, a former Republican who left the party last year, attracted attention last month when he said he would launch an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian party’s presidential nomination. The announcement sent shockwaves through the Democratic party, with many worried that a credible third-party run would only help the president in his bid for re-election.
Mr Amash said on Twitter on Saturday that after weeks of deliberation, he had “concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year”.
“Electoral 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 posed by a viable third candidate,” Mr Amash added.
Third-party candidates have generally struggled to gain traction in the modern American two-party system. However, a small number of third-party candidates have changed the course of presidential contests, notably Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire who stood as an independent candidate in 1992 against incumbent George HW Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Mr Perot won almost 19 per cent of the popular vote, helping clear the way for Mr Clinton to defeat Mr Bush.
More recently, in 2016, Jill Stein, the Green party candidate, pulled in support from some Democrats who had backed Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Ms Stein won 1 per cent of the vote in the general election. Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico Republican governor who made a third-party run as a Libertarian, received more than 3 per cent.
Mr Amash’s decision not to run sets the stage for a head-to-head showdown between Mr Trump and Mr Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in November.
While Mr Trump enjoyed a brief bump in approval ratings at the start of the coronavirus crisis, his popularity with voters has slipped in recent weeks. The latest FT-Peterson poll found the overwhelming majority of American voters trust their state’s governor over the president to decide when to reopen businesses. Head-to-head polling in many key swing states, including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania, show Mr Biden with a growing lead over the incumbent.