Amash ends brief bid for Libertarian presidential nomination

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Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) departs the U.S. Capitol after a vote on July 16, 2019, in Washington D.C. - Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Zuma Press/TNS

DETROIT — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Saturday he is dropping his bid to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee — a week before the party’s national convention.

The decision comes just shy of three weeks after the five-term congressman formed an exploratory committee for president on April 28.

“After much reflection, I’ve concluded that circumstances don’t lend themselves to my success as a candidate for president this year, and therefore I will not be a candidate,” Amash tweeted.

Amash said his decision was based in part on limited opportunities for “lesser-known” candidates to secure media opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic and resistance in the media to third-party candidates.

“I continue to believe that a candidate from outside the old parties, offering a vision of government grounded in liberty and equality, can break through in the right environment. But this environment presents extraordinary challenges,” Amash wrote.

“Polarization is near an all-time high. 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,” he added.

“Today, most Americans are understandably more interested in what life will look like tomorrow than they are in broader policy debates, and news coverage has reflected those priorities. At the same time, fundraising challenges posed by an idled economy will hinder advertising.”

Political analysts had said a Libertarian bid by Amash could complicate President Donald Trump’s plans to repeat his 2016 win in Michigan, or could have hurt Biden by siphoning votes from the former vice president in battleground states.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics said Amash wouldn’t have made much difference in the 2020 either way, even in Michigan.

“We are too polarized and too divided on Trump for any third-party candidate to do particularly well,” Sabato said. “Amash seems to have recognized this with his withdrawal.”

In announcing his decision, Amash also cited “lingering uncertainty” regarding ratification of online voting for the upcoming Libertarian convention, the feasibility of ballot access in all 50 states, and the question of unity behind the eventual nominee, saying those issues “have also weighed heavily on me.”

“We must address these issues as a party to ensure we maximize our potential,” Amash wrote.

He thanked supporters and said he remains invested in helping the party to become a “major and consistent contender to win elections at all levels of government.”

The former Republican joined the party a month ago and became the first Libertarian ever in Congress.

Gregory Stempfle, chair of the Michigan Libertarian Party, said he was disappointed to see Amash drop out, predicting he could have won the nomination.

“It still looks like he wants to be active in promoting the Libertarian Party. There’s a chance he will continue running for Congress, and that’s what I’m hoping what he’ll do,” Stempfle said Saturday.

“I think everyone — even those who didn’t want him as a nominee — would back that.”

Amash idled his U.S. House reelection campaign in West Michigan in February and has said he doesn’t intend to return to that campaign.

But he has several weeks to decide on a sixth term. Michigan’s filing deadline for the Aug. 4 primary is July 16 for independent and third-party candidates.

Vermin Supreme, one of the leading contenders for the Libertarian presidential nomination, urged Amash to stay the course in Congress.

“All of us at Team Supreme look forward to @justinamash winning re-election as a Libertarian, electing hundreds of other Libertarian congresspeople, and House Speaker Amash helping me pass my presidential agenda!” Supreme tweeted Saturday.

Amash has long said he wouldn’t pursue the White House if he didn’t think he would win.

He was considered a front-runner but not the solid favorite to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president over Memorial Day weekend, party activists said in recent days.


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