Los Angeles-- Polls show Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama running close in the 2008 presidential election. But could third-party candidates take votes away from McCain, much as Ralph Nader did during his bid for the presidency in 2000.
This week's NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll tends to think so.
According to the poll's findings, Obama has a 6-point lead over McCain, even though most respondents thought he was a riskier pick for president. But when voters were asked to factor in two other candidates -- former GOP congressman Bob Barr, who's running for president as a Libertarian, and Nader, who's running as an independent -- Obama's lead opened up.
Here's how MSNBC summarized it: "... Obama’s lead over McCain expands to 13 points when third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are added into the mix — with Obama at 48 percent, McCain at 35 percent, Nader at 5 percent and Barr at 2 percent. However, it’s important to note that the pro-Obama vote (48 percent) and anti-Obama vote (adding up to 42 percent) is consistent with the result from the two-way match up."
In mid-June, stories about Republicans' concerns about Barr were all over the media. The New York Times, for example, reported that Barr "gleefully recounted" how some in the GOP had tried to talk him out of running.
"They all said, 'Look, we understand why you’re [running]. We agree with why you’re doing it. But please don’t do it,'" Barr told The Times.
What this all mean come November? It's hard to say. NationalJournal.com's Mystery Pollster column takes a look at the polling on third-party candidates and suggests that the support for them may not be what it seems.