A Washington Post poll of registered voters in Virginia last month showed Goode with 2 percent. Johnson received 4 percent and Stein, 1 percent. Anderson was not in the poll.
“Even if [Goode] wins only one or two percent, he can be the difference,” said Larry Sabato, of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “Virgil is well known and has a lot of people who like him.”
John K. Rooney, a 49-year-old investment adviser who had a Tea Party group in Petersburg, said he has encountered criticism from his own members for supporting Goode.
“They say, ‘Oh, if you don’t vote for Romney you’re going to give the election over to Obama,’ ” Rooney said. “But I’m certainly not going to vote for the lesser of two evils. And who’s to say Romney is better than Obama?”
The platforms of third-party candidates have been relegated to the fringes. They were shut out of the three presidential debates and resigned to running no-frills campaigns on meager budgets.
Stein and Johnson sued after being blocked from debating Romney and Obama; Stein was arrested trying to get into the Hempstead, N.Y., debate.
Instead, the four candidates outlined their messages Tuesday in a Chicago hotel ballroom during a separate debate moderated by Larry King and televised on C-SPAN.
Stein, 62, said she is trying to appeal to disenfranchised voters who rallied to the Occupy Wall Street movement and is calling for tuition-free colleges, Medicare for all ages, and clean energy policies.
“Progressives this time aren’t saying ‘Obama is the answer,’ ” Stein, who is on the ballot in 38 states, said in an interview. “They’re saying, ‘He’s not as a bad as Romney.’ ”
Anderson, 61, is on the ballot in only 15 states and holds no illusions that his candidacy will swing the election. He said he just wants to make voters aware of how the two-party political system betrays the public interest. He promises to end foreign wars and the war on drugs, and advocate for a single-payer health system.
“Look, we hear about wasted votes right now,” Johnson told the crowd in Chicago. “I’m asking everybody here to waste your vote on me.”
Tracy Jan can be reached at email@example.com.