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You can't really say "spoiler effect" without implying it. A "spoiler" is a minor candidate that is substantially similar to one of the major candidates. Just because the Democratic candidate lost to the spoiler doesn't make the spoiler less of a spoiler; the Democratic candidate would have been more likely to win if they weren't there.

It's not a "spoiler effect"; maybe a split constituency is a better term. Spoiler implies that somebody has something, and someone else steps in and ruins it. These are all equal people running for the same office.

This IMO gets it completely wrong. An independent candidate who comes within 2% of a plurality and victory and performs >15% better than the Democrat does not deserve to be called a spoiler. Why does the Democrat deserve the win regardless of what voters evidently want?

If anyone is a spoiler, it must be the Democratic candidate.

Your reasoning may be well-intentioned, but it is yet more 3rd-party-blaming.

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