Gary Johnson could be the most important politician you have never heard of. The former New Mexico governor could be the decisive factor in the 2016 presidential election.
Some polls indicate that Johnson; the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, could attract enough voters to influence the outcome of the election. A May 16 Fox news poll found that 10% of voters, supported Johnson. A Quinnipiac University Poll dated June 1 placed Johnson’s level of support at 5%.
This is big news because Barrack Obama won the 2012 election by 3.9%, according to Real Clear Politics. Numbers indicate Obama received 51.1% of the popular vote and Republican Mitt Romney received 47.2%.
If these polls are accurate; Johnson could be attracting enough support to affect the outcome of the election. He could also be affecting the outcome of the polls themselves, Fox polled Donald Trump at 42% and Hillary Clinton at 39%. Quinnipiac found that Clinton beat Trump 45% to 41%, in a straight match and 40% to 38%; when Johnson and another third party candidate, Jill Stein of the Green Party, were added to the mix.
How Will Johnson Affect the Election
Determining how Johnson will affect the election is difficult; because only a few pollsters began asking about him recently. To add to confusion; the Libertarians are currently only on the ballot in just 32 of the 50 states.
Johnson is a potent force when you go by the polls. The Real Clear Politics average of polls found that Clinton was ahead by 1.5% for the dates May 13 to June 1, 2016. Such polls do reflect the popular vote in 2012 the Real Clear average predicted that Obama would win by .7%, he actually own by 3.9% which indicates a 3.2% margin of error.
An even greater problem is that the president is selected by the Electoral College and not by popular vote. Membership in the college is determined by the percentage of votes Presidential candidates get in the states.
A third party candidate; like Johnson, could affect that by doing well in just a few states. A possibility is a vote counting drama such as the Florida debacle in the 2000 Bush-Gore race.
Interestingly enough; Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but lost the Electoral College race. The contest depended upon disputed vote counts in Florida. Some observers think that two third party candidates; Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader might have affected the outcome of that contest.
Why Libertarians could be a Big Deal This Year
The Libertarians are a factor in this year’s race because the two major party candidates; Clinton and Trump, are disliked and distrusted by a large percentage of Americans.
An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll from May 24 found that 60% of Americans disliked Clinton; and 64% of Americans disliked Trump. A majority of Americans have negative feelings about both major candidates.
Johnson could benefit from this for the simple reason he is not Trump or Clinton. Voters that want to send a message to the two big parties could chose him. Another possibility is that Democrats or Republicans that dislike their party’s nominee; but cannot bring themselves to vote for the other, might go the third party route.
A factor that could benefit Johnson is all the negative news coverage of both candidates. Hillary is dogged by the email scandal and her husband’s misdeeds. Trump has almost too many scandals in his background to count; including the Mafia rumors, bribery allegations, Trump University, business failures and Marla Maples to name a few. There are also the allegations of racism and sexism.
Simply by being unknown but on the ballot, Johnson benefits; especially if loyal party members turn out to vote in other races but cannot stomach their side’s standard bearer. That means Johnson could be helped by get out the vote efforts from groups trying to influence Congress or state level races.
A Serious Libertarian Ticket – What’s Up with That?
The Libertarians have an interesting advantage this year because they are running a serious ticket of two proven professional politicians; Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld. Johnson served two terms as the Republican governor of New Mexico. He defeated an incumbent Democratic Governor (Bruce King) in a Democrat-leaning state in his first election in 1996.
Weld, served as Republican governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. In 1994, Weld was reelected by the largest margin in the state’s history. Weld served as a United States Attorney from 1981 to 1986 and head of the US Justice Department’s criminal division under Ronald Reagan from 1986 to 1988.
Two such candidates will help the Libertarians get respect and attention from the media; which is vital. More importantly it could help them raise money. In addition to having a proven track record; Weld was a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in 2012. That means he could tap anti-Trump Republicans for big money.
The Libertarians are also attracting dissatisfied Republicans; legendary GOP political strategist Mary Matalin has joined their ranks, Politico reported. Some Republicans are attracted to the Libertarians because of Trump’s anti-trade and big government policies.
An interesting development here is that the Libertarians are looking like a serious political party with two adult candidates, while both the Democrats and Republicans are looking childish and amateurish. This could be to their benefit; particularly with a Republican nominee who is regularly compared to a two-year old in the media.
How the Libertarians could disrupt the Race and help either Donald or Hillary
The actual effect the Libertarians will have is impossible to determine; because of their size they only have around 50,000 members. An added complication is that they are largely a regional party heavily concentrated in the West. Finally the Libertarians are still basically unknown to most voters.
Interestingly enough; the Libertarians could help either Trump or Clinton win. The Libertarians could help Clinton; by siphoning off a percentage of the Republican and independent vote that hates Trump but cannot support her. This could include second amendment activists, pro-business Republicans, some moderates, social conservatives, Republicans and members of religious or other minority groups who are uncomfortable with Trump’s racism.
A strong showing by Libertarians could make Hillary competitive in some normally Republican Red western states, like Utah and Idaho. Trump after all is an easterner and a city slicker. Donald’s lifestyle and past could put off many rural western voters, Christians, libertarians and social conservatives.
Libertarians could help Trump by providing a non-Democrat alternative for Never-Trump Republicans and independents; that might have voted for Hillary. This could be a problem for Hillary in the west; especially the rural west, where she is widely distrusted.
An interesting development could be that candidates will have to spend time, money and resources in states that would normally be ignored. Instead of swing states; Trump might end up fighting Johnson for the GOP base in states like Kansas or Idaho. Hillary might have to fight in states like Colorado and New Mexico.
We have to pay attention to the Libertarians; because 2016 has been unusual election in which weird things have happened. Last year nobody thought that a socialist from Vermont would be capable of mounting a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton; yet US Senator Bernie Sanders did. Nor did anybody expect a former casino owner and ex-Democrat from Manhattan to capture the GOP nomination, yet Trump has.
Sanders and Trump did so well, because of popular discontent with the political and economic status quo. That discontent is not dissipating, and it could benefit third parties like the Libertarians; particularly if both Trump and Hillary get effectively branded as corporate elitists or crooks during the contest.
The Presidential election process has been completely disrupted; and the Libertarians could be in a position to disrupt it even more. What remains to be seen is the level of disruption they could achieve, in this year’s political environment, it could be substantial.