Trump and Clinton give Libertarians an opportunity. Can they seize it?

Gary Johnson gives his acceptance speech after he won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination during the party'’s national convention in Orlando, May 29. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / The New York Times)

Gary Johnson gives his acceptance speech after winning the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination in Orlando, May 29. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / The New York Times)

One of the loudest #NeverTrump voices in the conservative media caused a bit of a stir this weekend with this tweet:

I guess the dream never really dies. While I’d be happy to have an independent candidate as an alternative to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I will be surprised if one actually emerges — and as I’ve said before, I don’t think such a candidacy would actually help the down-ballot Republicans often cited as the reason for providing such a choice.

All that said, we know there will be at least a third candidate on ballots this fall: the Libertarian candidate. And that party chose its nominee this weekend, deciding once again to back former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who was also the 2012 nominee.

Johnson will be the only contender besides Clinton and Trump to appear on all 50 ballots, so his candidacy will attract a lot of media attention. We have seen that disproportionate media coverage can boost an unlikely candidate, but exactly how far can we expect Johnson, who got 0.99 percent of the national popular vote four years ago, to go?

A Fox News poll last week showed Johnson pulling 10 percent of the vote against the two major-party candidates, which would be a staggering total in November. The last time a third-party candidate reached that level was 24 years ago: Ross Perot in 1992. Before that, it hadn’t happened in … 24 years, when George Wallace did it in 1968. (Lest you think this happens every quarter-century or so, the last person to do it before Wallace was Robert La Follette, way back in 1924.) Of course, even smaller shares of the vote can have an effect on the outcome; just ask President Gore about his buddy, Ralph Nader.

The polls definitely show there’s some wiggle room in the electorate. The current Real Clear Politics average of national polls show the Trump-plus-Clinton vote totaling 86.6 percentage points; going back a bit further, to all polls conducted in the past two months, the average is 86.9 points. That’s significantly lower than in 2012, when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney combined for an average of 91.1 points in April-May polls. Obama was an incumbent then, but the picture wasn’t much different in 2008: Obama and John McCain totaled 90.6 points during the same two months. So there’s about 4 more points of indecisiveness this time around.

Now for the bad news for third-party hopefuls: The real exposure Johnson needs would come in the fall debates, and the Commission on Presidential Debates has already set a standard of 15 percent in national polls for a candidate to be included in those events. Even if Johnson is the only third-party candidate in the race, he would have to start taking away large chunks of Trump’s and Clinton’s support to hit that number. If another independent candidate were to enter the race, per Kristol’s statement, I think it’d be nearly impossible for someone besides Clinton and Trump to make the debate stage.

That said, with Trump and Clinton both as big-government foils, Johnson should have ample opportunities to talk about an approach that limits the federal government rather than simply wielding its power to different ends. It may not affect the electoral count, but it’ll be nice to have one candidate in the race talking that way.

Reader Comments 0

38 comments
JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Look no further than the latest Rasmussen Poll on Hillary Clinton's email problems for more evidence of our Nation's moral and character decay.

Only 43% of likely voters believe she should stop campaigning if charged with a felony.

71% of Democrats believe Clinton should keep running.

If you look into that 71% you will find the anti-God crowd.

Could there be a correlation?    

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@JohnnyReb

Demwits don't mind being lied to.  As long as their candidate will protect their right to snuff out the life of their unborn child and keep their Obamaphone turned on.

lvg
lvg

Libertarians have two highly qualified and experienced ex-governors compared to the fraudster , and incompetent buffoon that Hannity, Limbaugh and usual GOP half wits who are on here are drooling over.Too qualified for Stupid Party.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Can they seize it?  No.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

The commission should be embarrassed for rigging the system. It may play into Johnson's strategy, though, and give him a good talking point.

That's assuming he can raise enough money to make his argument to enough people. A perfect illustration of why money equals speech.

Perhaps a group of people could form an organization to raise money and get the message out about this rigged system. The fact that they might organize as a corporation won't hinder their efforts, thanks to Citizens United.

lvg
lvg

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Just get the Libertarians to over 15% in the polls . It is not that hard unless you want the government to get involved.

MarkVV
MarkVV

What is most remarkable about the Trump campaign is the gullibility of his supporters, who are willing to believe him that he would achieve what he says he would simply because he says that he would, without explaining how he would do it, and ignoring his history and his contradictions. And Trump tells them quite openly how stupid they are – remember his boast about shooting someone and still getting their support? 

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Your candidate lies to your face about exposing national security secrets and you are OK with that.

Yes, that's different from gullibility. It's putting party above country, traitor.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Lil_Barry_Bailout Please be specific on your charges. Just having your own server does not break the law. Please be specific...if you can.

Bruno2
Bruno2

Kyle: "All that said, we know there will be at least a third candidate on ballots this fall: the Libertarian candidate."

I've always said that the Republicans have a much more difficult sales job each election in attempting to "sell" the philosophy of self-sufficiency.  In such a context, the Libertarians have an even harder job.  For whatever reason, freedom isn't "sexy".  Freebies are, unfortunately, which is why the Dems will always have an easier time getting elected.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@lvg @JohnnyReb @Bruno2 how thick are those blinders?

Yep, Trump became a multi millionaire with empty promises and failure to deliver.

Perhaps you have his performance confused with that of Hillary who thinks flying around the world as a SOS was an accomplishment.

BTW, you might want to check out jobs during W's administration.

And before you go off half prepared, the recession was over about 4 months after Obama took office so any credit for ending it has to be shared with W.

lvg
lvg

@JohnnyReb @Bruno2 Millenials are not all stupid. GOP has no track record of providing jobs and Trump would promise Millenials  a million dollars each for their vote and say he was kidding after election day. His whole life is empty promises to wives, employees, banks, etc.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Bruno2 One would think the Millennials would go for Trump since he is promising jobs.

I forget where specifically heard, but a survey showed there are more Millennials living with mommy and daddy than are out on their own including those married.

Perhaps they don't understand that if Bernie pays off their college loan they will still need a job to escape mommies table. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@JohnnyReb @Bruno2 Promising jobs after he said Americans are over paid? What is the salary of those jobs? Still need public assistance?

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

If you're waiting for a political party to provide jobs, you're a fool. Free market capitalism provides the most jobs, and the best paying jobs.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Give Kyle credit, he realized months ago Trump is a chump and so far he don't want to drink the GOP koolaid.

lvg
lvg

@Jefferson1776 Maybe because he has higher than average Southern Con IQ of around 50

Silly Bloggers
Silly Bloggers

@Jefferson1776 I actually enjoy the point of views of both Kyle and Jay as both are vehemently against Trump. They disagree on pretty much everything else...that should speak volumes about Trump.  If only the rest of the liberals and conservatives could find something in common.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Yeah, his campaign should air the guy who striped down at their convention....eeewwwwww.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Just can't get your mind attuned to President Trump, can you Kyle?


I think Gary will do better than last time maybe 5-7%, but as uninformed as our voters are, he just doesn't have much chance to get more, unless he has money like Perot to buy advertising on things like the Comedy Channel,. MTV, and other pop culture media avenues.  Most of the undecided voters will be stuck on stupid, spending the three minutes a week that they think about politics, trying to argue for either Trump or crooked HIllary.  Things are looking bleak with a forecast for storms ahead for HIllary, so practice that President Trump title.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Trump holds news conference to discredit Lap Media attacks on Vet fund raising.

Trump when asked by media if going forward he would have the same antagonistic attitude toward the media gave them heck telling them media in general and especially political media is disingenuous.

Separately, it is being reported the Hillary campaign is behind the false attack on Trump over the Vet fund raising.

But you Libbies keep clinging to the serial liar.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@JohnnyReb I do not know any "Libbies" who cling to the serial, pathological liar, Donald Trump.

lvg
lvg

@JohnnyReb Only a Southern Con would believe Trump does not control some of those vet organizations he gives money to. 

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@lvg @JohnnyReb Only a Lib would find favor with Hillary over Trump even though Hillary has done zero, zip to donate to or help veterans.

Trump helps raise nearly 6 million for vets, a million of that from him, the Hillary campaign pays for protesters to try and make Trump look bad on the issue, Lap Media joins in, but in the end when proven false Libs still want Hillary.

Talk about disconnect. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@JohnnyReb False attack? No. Just wanting facts, which Trump has not provided. So the lack of transparency does not bother you? So why all the concern over Hillary's e-mails?

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Kristol who claims to be a Republican Conservative is proving quite the traitor to those claims.

He has this pipe dream a third party candidate would deny both Hillary and Trump enough Electoral College votes to win, the decision would be thrown to The House, who in turn would pick for president a Republican such as Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush.

Instead, a Republican third party candidate will hand the election to Hillary just as Bernie running as a third party would hand it to Trump.

Johnson is a side show who may get more votes than in the past but not enough to sway the election.

There is simply too much at stake for anyone who does not want Hillary, who wants at least a chance for the Country to recover to "as founded," to vote for anyone other than Trump.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@JohnnyReb You're assuming Trump isn't as liberal as Hillary.  There's lots in his history to suggest he is.  The problem with an independent candidate is that it probably drags down the Republican Senate and House candidates as people vote for the independent and don't fill out the rest of the ballot or split and vote for some Democrats.  Plus it creates a battle between Trump and the 3rd candidate that hurts Republicans down ballot.