- - Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apart from death and taxes, few things in life are certain. But one of them is that third-party candidates nearly always lose. Sometimes a third-party candidate can be a positive influence in the race, and sometimes not. Robert Sarvis, the candidate of the Libertarian Party, can only contribute to the prospects of Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee.

We don’t take the principled Mr. Sarvis for a fan of Terry McAuliffe. But apart from gay marriage and abortion, we can’t find any significant differences between Mr. Sarvis and Ken Cuccinelli, the conservative Republican nominee. On his website, Mr. Sarvis advocates eloquently for the restoration of rights for those convicted of nonviolent crimes, protecting Internet freedom, reforming asset-forfeiture laws and restricting government use of snooping technology. Mr. Cuccinelli, the most “pro-liberty” candidate on any ballot this year, wants to do them, too. Mr. Sarvis says he can do these things, and we’re sure he would if he could. Mr. Cuccinelli has an actual record of advancing these causes in the General Assembly and as attorney general. An actual track record and a realistic prospect of adding to that record trumps a promise, however well-meant.

Mr. McAuliffe, on the other hand, is a carpetbagging, tax-spend-and-regulate liberal who, so far as we can discern, has not distanced himself from any of President Obama’s ruinous big-government policies, including his war on coal, which is important to Virginia’s economy and crucial to the nation’s well-being, too. Mr. McAuliffe’s entire campaign strategy has been to raise $26 million and spend the money running ads demonizing his opponent. Michael R. Bloomberg, the retiring mayor of New York City who wants to be the nanny of the whole world now that he’ll have time on his hands, has contributed $1 million to the McAuliffe campaign, to be used to weaken the Second Amendment.

The McAuliffe campaign has so pummeled Mr. Cuccinelli with misleading television commercials that many voters say they’ll choose “none of the above.” That’s Mr. Sarvis. If the Real Clear Politics rolling average of polls is accurate, the 10 percent Mr. Sarvis draws from Mr. Cuccinelli would be enough to give Mr. McAuliffe a 9.6-point victory.

Ron Paul, the onetime Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, back Mr. Cuccinelli — not Mr. Sarvis. Rand Paul will appear at rallies for Mr. Cuccinelli in Virginia Beach and Fairfax City on Monday afternoon. They understand how important retaining the statehouse in Richmond is to the economy and good government of Virginia.

Mr. Sarvis, a lawyer and successful businessman, should ask himself whether he wants to be remembered as a spoiler and as an asterisk in the history of Virginia politics. The Virginia governorship until now hasn’t been an entry-level job, or one that requires on-the-job training. Mr. Sarvis has it within his power to ensure that the man who wakes up as governor-elect on Nov. 6 is the governor-elect who will work to advance limited government, personal freedom and the good things important to Robert Sarvis.