A senior lecturer in psychology at Clemson University is selling herself as the reasonable alternative for voters who reject Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and as a way to send a message of dissatisfaction to the major political parties.
Jo Jorgensen, 63, of Greenville, South Carolina, won’t win the Nov. 3 presidential contest in Pennsylvania or nationwide, experts say. But like a long line of third-party challengers before her, she is hoping her candidacy will make a difference.
Trump carried Pennsylvania by only 44,000 votes in 2016 out of more than 6 million cast. If it is a close race again, Jorgensen’s share of the vote could help Democrats win the state’s 20 electoral votes.
That’s because Jorgensen will more likely draw votes from Trump, says Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington & Jefferson College, a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania’s Washington County.
“It’s a common thought that we draw more from the Rs,” Jorgensen told a reporter, but she adds that Libertarian candidates historically have pulled votes from both parties.
DiSarro, a conservative Republican and Trump supporter, reasons that Libertarians’ desire for less government would be appealing to many Trump supporters. “In a close race, who knows?” he said.
Biden led Trump in Pennsylvania by an average of 5 percentage points in October polls, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
“I don’t look for third-party candidates to have much impact,” said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster based at Lancaster’s Franklin & Marshall College and longtime commentator on Pennsylvania politics. Jorgensen might get 1 percentage point or a bit more, he said, adding, “There are too many ifs.”
‘Try to make a difference’
“Maybe, we’ll see,” said Jorgensen, the lone third-party candidate on Pennsylvania’s 2020 ballot. “Someone has to try to make a difference.”
Supporting a candidate that’s not affiliated with one of the two major political parties is often criticized by some as throwing one’s vote away. But Jorgensen said a vote for her is not wasted, since her campaign informs the electorate about Libertarian philosophy.
“Government is too big, too bossy, too intrusive,” Jorgensen said.
Libertarians typically define necessary services as “police, courts, military,” Jorgensen said.
In 2016, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, running as the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, garnered 4.5 million votes nationwide, or about 3.3% of the total vote. He won 146,715 votes in Pennsylvania that year, with the Green and Constitution party candidates earning 70,000 votes between them.
Notable third-party candidates from the past include Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, a well-known consumer advocate, who won 97,000 votes in Florida in 2000, arguably costing Al Gore the presidency.
Billionaire populist Ross Perot in 1992, and former U.S. Rep. John Anderson in 1980, also ran strong third-party campaigns, as did segregationist and former Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1968 and Socialist Eugene Debs in 1920.
Jorgensen, who holds a doctorate in psychology, previously sold IBM systems and co-founded a software duplication company.
She has campaigned twice in Pennsylvania: in Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania.