Very simple. Everybody who follows the battleground states already knows that the Virginia Elections Commission decision to allow former VA Congressman Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party presidential nominee, to stay on the ballot has probably killed Mitt Romney's chances to win in Virginia.
Now here's why the GOP is fighting and dying to keep Gary Johnson off the ballot in Pennsylvania: new polls show Obama with an 11-point lead in the Keystone State, either 50-39 or 51-37. Neither poll included any third-party candidates. But both polls show about 11-12% of the voters either as undecided or preferring another candidate.
Do the math.
If Obama does not collapse in PA (by which I mean losing more than a random 2% fluctuation), then Romney needs to pick up virtually all the current undecideds to be competitive. Virgil Goode has already been tossed off the ballot by GOP chicanery. Gary Johnson has survived the first attack, and while I honestly think that 2-3% is probably his ceiling in the State, that 2-3% represents so many nails in Romney's coffin. Without those voters, there are not enough undecided voters for Romney to make it competitive, let alone win.
Without Virginia, Romney needs a state like Pennsylvania. With Gary Johnson in the race, he can't do it, even if all the other unlikely events he needs to become competitive in the state occur.
So again: third-party candidates as spoilers.
I'm OK with that. In fact, I'm loving it.
Ross Perot did not elect Bill Clinton twice; the failure of the GOP to appeal to those voters who were so alienated that they'd vote for him did that.
Likewise, Ralph Nader did not elect Dubya by taking nearly 100,000 votes in Florida. The Dems did that to themselves by considering enough of the Green/environmentalist movement voters to be in the bag, and not in need of including in the big decisions.
Loyalty to the two-party system is crumbling, both on the right and on the left. There used to be room for both a liberal and conservative (relatively speaking) wing of each major party. There isn't that room any more. Progressive/liberal Dems don't want conservative Dems, and Conservative/Tea Party GOPers don't want moderate, let alone liberal, Republicans.
So guess what? Both parties are alienating the portions of the electorate and the politicians from which compromise arises. Those folks are ultimately going elsewhere, to one or more different political parties. The only thing holding a lot of them is the "wasted vote" meme and careful machinations in the media to insist (however ahistorically) that America is a two-party system, no more and no less.
All that this is going to take to crumble the edifice is a showing by some third-party candidate that they can score at least 4-5% nationally, and get close to double figures in some states. I have my doubts (much as I would like to think otherwise) that Gary Johnson can do that this year. It's as much a "best case" scenario as Romney becoming competitive in Pennsylvania.
But what Gary Johnson is doing is something that no third party has done in recent memory--although the Reform Party did try in the 1990s--which is to build a nationwide political organization, and to use this year to gain the experience in how to run a campaign. Gary has already gotten more earned media that the last four or five Libertarian Party nominees combined, and he is the only one who has actually campaigned hard nationally.
If we had the money to go with the organization we'd be above the 15% threshold for the debates right now--Ross Perot proved you could do that with major media access.
But after we take our best shot this November, guess what? We've got four years to come up with a few million in seed money for 2016, and by that time more people than ever will be sick of statist politics as usual . . . at least the 25% of them without jobs will be.