Chris Matthews Lets Jimmy Carter Blame Loss to Reagan on Third Party Candidate

 Chris Matthews on Monday participated in a little bit of revisionist history for the benefit of his former employer Jimmy Carter.

As the "Hardball" host brought up the possibility of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg running as a third party candidate in 2012, the former President actually said that this was why he lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980 (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Well, let me ask you this issue that is cutting right now. There`s a lot of buzz on this show already about the possibility of a third party running in 2012, which, in many ways, as you know, automatically tends to help the Republicans, in this case -- and maybe not automatically -- but, if Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, runs, that`s going to hurt Obama, isn`t it?
What do you think of third parties?

FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: Well, of course I didn`t like them when I ran for reelection in 1980s...

MATTHEWS: Right.

CARTER: ... because, for two-and-a-half years, Ted Kennedy had been running against me. And in the last minute, a third-party candidate came in and picked up a lot of the liberal Democratic votes.

MATTHEWS: Right.

CARTER: And, as a matter of fact, Ronald Reagan only got less than 51 percent of the votes, but he won because of a third-party candidate.

MATTHEWS: Well, won`t Bloomberg do the same to Obama?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If you look at the states that Bloomberg could win, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, you know the ones, maybe Florida, they`re all Obama states last time. He would only hurt Obama, wouldn`t hurt a Palin or Republican of any kind of at all.

CARTER: Well, I`m not sure that Bloomberg is seriously considering that. I think it would be a mistake if he did, because he couldn`t win, but he might prevent Obama from winning reelection. And what he would do is just guarantee the Republican would move into the White House. And that`s what happened in 1980, when Ronald Reagan moved in because of the split Democratic Party.

Oh really, Mr. President?

Well let's look at the numbers:

  • Reagan received 50.75 percent of the popular votes and 489 electoral votes
  • Carter received 41.01 percent of the popular votes and 49 electoral votes
  • John Anderson won 6.61 percent of the popular votes and no electoral votes
  • Libertarian candidate Edward Clark won 1.06 percent of the popular votes and no electoral votes
  • Citizens Party candidate Barry Commoner won 0.27 percent of the popular votes and no electoral votes
  • Other won 0.29 percent of the popular votes and no electoral votes

What this means is if Carter got every single one of Anderson's popular votes - a VERY bold assumption! - he still would only have garnered 47.62 percent, clearly not enough to beat Reagan. Beyond this, if Clark hadn't run, it's just as valid to claim the Republican would have gotten all of his votes moving Reagan up to 51.81 percent.

Taking this further, an analysis of the statewide results shows that if Carter picked up all of Anderson's votes, and Reagan got all of Clark's, Carter would have won Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin. This would have given him 122 additional electoral votes making Reagan still the victor with 367.

As such, the claim that Anderson gave Reagan the election in 1980 lacks any factual basis. That Carter would make it as he tours the country trying to improve his image is not surprising. That Matthews would let him get away with it without correcting or challenging him is despicable.

The way Matthews introduced this subject was just as pathetic. "There`s a lot of buzz on this show already about the possibility of a third party running in 2012, which, in many ways, as you know, automatically tends to help the Republicans."

The existence of a third party candidate automatically helps Republicans?

That certainly wasn't the case in 1992 when Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote the bulk of which likely Republicans and conservative Independents unhappy with George H. W. Bush's fiscal policies, especially the tax hike.

One could even make the case that the presence of Perot in the 1996 election also gave that victory to the Democrat, although that would be less of a certainty. Of course, if Perot hadn't have run in 1992, Clinton likely wouldn't even have been in th 1996 race.

As is typical, such truths prove inconvenient when liberal media members talk about third party candidates always hurting Democrats.

*****Update: Allahpundit and I agree on the absurdity of Carter's claims with the only difference being I included a Libertarian Clark factor thereby awarding Carter fewer states. 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.