U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was on the defense on Friday night when "Real Time" host Bill Maher challenged the independent former Republican lawmaker about his potential Libertarian Party presidential bid, which many believe could be a spoiler to help President Trump in the general election.
After Maher complimented Amash for being a "principled Republican" for supporting Trump's impeachment, he noted how "anti-Trumpers of all stripes are nervous" about his recently announced exploratory committee and that he'd likely be taking votes away from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. (Amash left the GOP in 2019, saying he had become "frightened" by the state of party politics.)
"You could be the Ralph Nader of 2020," Maher joked, referring to the consumer advocate who was accused of being a "spoiler" in the 2000 election between former Vice President Al Gore and eventual winner George W. Bush.
Amash pushed back, saying he's "in it to win the race" and insisted he was trying to "take votes from both sides" as well as from "millions" of disenfranchised Americans.
"In the last election in 2016, 45 percent of Americans didn't even vote. So there's a big pool of people out there and I'm going to reach out to all of them," Amash said.
"In the last election in 2016, 45 percent of Americans didn't even vote. So there's a big pool of people out there and I'm going to reach out to all of them."
Amash told Maher he was "presenting a very different vision for the country," stressing the values of a libertarian, such as "limited government" and that people are "sick" of the current state of politics.
"OK, well," Maher chuckled. "Third-party candidates, you always have your stories, they're always similar, and they're always nuts because, you know, third-party candidates can never win in this country but OK. If you're not worried about tipping this election."
"We could win," Amash argued. "We just need the right kind of candidate. We need a candidate who can get the message out to the people and is approachable and presentable. I think a lot of times when you have third-party candidates coming in, they are coming from left field a little bit and it's good to have a candidate out there who can present the message in a way that most people find approachable.
Amash added, "If you spend time with me over the course of this campaign I think you'll find that I'm the normal guy, the regular guy and these other two guys are the buffoons."