Justin Amash nixes 2020 presidential run as third party candidate

Move ends flirtation with third-party candidacy that may have introduced new element of uncertainty into the race between Trump and Biden

Rep. Justin Amash listens to debate on Capitol Hill in Washington in June 2019.


Associated Press

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash has announced that he will not run for president as a third party candidate, CNN reported Saturday.

“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,” he tweeted Saturday.

The Republican-turned-independent said in early April he was looking “closely” at a bid as Libertarian Party candidate, after he stopped actively campaigning for his House seat in February while he considered jumping into the presidential race.

The move brings to an end to his extended flirtation with a third-party candidacy that could have introduced a new element of uncertainty into the race between President Donal Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the New York Times.

He came into the national spotlight last May when he announced his support for impeaching President Trump over the findings in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He was the first and only House Republican to support impeachment, eventually voting for both articles of impeachment against the President as an independent late last year.

Amash left the Republican Party in July 2019 after writing in a Washington Post op-ed that he had grown “disenchanted” with party politics, becoming the first GOP member on record to declare that Trump had engaged in impeachable conduct.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Amash said the decision to drop out was “difficult,” but that he “believes a candidate from outside the old parties, offering a vision of government grounded in liberty and equality, can break through in the right environment.”

“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.

The Libertarian Party, he added, “is well positioned to become a major and consistent contender to win elections at all levels of government.”

“I remain invested in helping the party realize these possibilities and look forward to the successes ahead,” he said.

He was facing a tough reelection in Michigan’s 3rd District. National Republicans were eager to defeat him, and several Republicans have been running for the seat.

Amash was first elected to represent Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2010 “Tea Party” wave.

The Michigan congressman is the son of a Syrian immigrant mother and a Palestinian refugee father. Before entering Congress, he worked as a lawyer for his family’s business and served a term from 2008-2010 in the Michigan state house.

Over the years, Amash has been consistently willing to take controversial votes according to his view of limited government, often being one of the only House members to vote against legislation with broad bipartisan support, such as an anti-lynching bill in February.

In 2015, Amash was one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of hardline conservatives that clashed with House Republican leadership and pushed for a more open legislative process and curtailed federal spending.

Amash has repeatedly told reporters he would only run for president if he believes there is a path to victory. In March 2019, he told CNN he never stops thinking about possibilities like running for president “because there is a big problem with the current two-party system we have, and someone has to shake it up.”

Amash explained on Twitter that he believed there were probably insurmountable hurdles to running a successful candidacy this year from outside the two major political parties.

Among those challenges, he said, is the difficulty of campaigning and qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states during a pandemic that has brought much of the country’s public life to a halt. He added that it would be difficult to raise money in the middle of a severe economic downturn.

“Never-Trumper” Republicans, including former Rep. Joe Walsh — who launched a failed 2020 presidential bid of his own — were concerned Amash would not win but “siphon enough votes” from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to “hand the election to Trump”, Politico reported.

President Trump disagreed with that assessment, saying in a tweet then that Amash would make a “wonderful candidate” and had “no chance of maintaining his Congressional seat.”

Trump has routinely chastised Amash on social media, calling him a “loser” and blasting the congressman as being disloyal.

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