Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is locked in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country in North Carolina, leading slightly against Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. But polls now are showing that the Libertarian candidate could make a difference — and he delivers pizzas for a living.
Sean Haugh is polling as high as 11 percent, the Washington Post reported. He is armed with YouTube videos and the help of campaign manager Rachel Mills, who spent five years as the press secretary to former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who was the 1988 Libertarian Party presidential nominee. He asked the Post not to report the pizza company he worked for, which the newspaper honored.
He has run five times for various offices with little impact. But he said it's different being a Libertarian now, compared to in his 2002 Senate race.
“The number one factor is the branding of Libertarian,” Haugh said. “One of the huge differences between when I ran [for Senate] in 2002 and this time is ‘libertarian’ is a household word now. Everybody knows what it means.”
The potential spoiler effect of Libertarian Party candidates is still very fresh on the minds of Republicans who look at the 2013 Virginia governor's race, where Democrat Terry McAuliffe's tight 2.6-point margin over Republican Ken Cuccinelli was likely assisted by the 6.5 percent of the vote that Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis received. Sarvis was heavily funded by a bundler for President Barack Obama.
“If it ends up being a one- or two-point race, Democrats could keep the Senate because of Sean Haugh,” said Tom Jensen, director Public Policy Polling, which showed the Libertarian Party candidate at 11 percent in its May and June surveys. Further, two Civitas Institute polls had Haugh polling at 8 percent in May and 9 percent in June.
Haugh, who relies on YouTube videos in lieu of expensive commercials, told the Post that he's only raised $4,000 for his campaign — compared to $15 million spent by outside groups on behalf of the Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger. His most popular video has received 8,000 views.
“In Syria, we’re supporting Sunni extremist rebels against government forces, but in Iraq, we’re supporting government forces against the Sunni extremists. How crazy is that?” Haugh asks in one of his videos.
Polling boost aside, a hot and delicious spoiler is not guaranteed for Democrats.
“We have seen time and time again that if a pollster includes a third-party candidate in a list of candidates in a survey taken several months out from the election, that this will often generate a support level of around 10 percentage points,” Wake Forest University political scientist John Dinan told the Post. “But the closer we come to Election Day, this support almost inevitably fades to a minimal level.”
Libertarians are also fielding candidates in at least 10 other competitive Senate campaigns – Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Alaska, the Post said. The party is trying to get on the ballot in Kentucky and New Hampshire. Libertarian candidates for governor are drawing support in Florida and Kansas.