Gary Johnson is looking for a strong finish in the polls, one that will help the Libertarian Party move from the fringes of the electoral landscape into something of a “major party.
And despite some dropping numbers, it could be well within reach.
The Libertarian Party’s candidate once entertained notions of defeating Donald Trump in some of the nation’s more right-leaning states, but the traditional late-campaign decline appears to be taking over, and Johnson’s long-shot chances of winning electoral votes are fading rapidly. But the party has another goal in mind, one that appears much more realistic with little more than a week until Election Day.
As KOAT noted, Johnson and running mate Bill Weld are polling between 3 percent and 10 percent nationally among likely voters. That puts the party well within its goal of reaching 5 percent nationally, a critically important benchmark.
“Libertarian party officials say if Gary Johnson earns at least 5 percent of the popular vote in the presidential race, they will earn ‘major party’ status and qualify for matching federal funds of up to $10 million,” the report noted. “That, officials say, should be enough to ensure that the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2020 appears on the ballot in all 50 states.”
If Gary Johnson can deliver, he would have to buck decades of tradition in polls. While third-party candidates often find higher levels of support in the summer leading up to Election Day, these numbers usually see a sharp decline after the major party conventions when voters begin to gravitate toward the major party candidates.
There are already signs of that happening this year. Gary Johnson’s average poll numbers in the RealClearPolitics polling averages have been cut nearly in half in the last six weeks, falling from a peak of 9.2 percent on September 14 to a current level of 5.8 percent.
That puts the Johnson-Weld ticket in danger of reaching the 5 percent threshold needed to achieve matching federal funds, but there could be other signs that this isn’t the traditional year. While Johnson has seen a decline, the dynamics of the presidential race are different this year than almost any other. October is traditionally a time when the polls tighten between the major party candidates, even in years like 2012 when the result was something close to a blowout.
This year has been different, with Republican Donald Trump seeing his poll numbers plummet in the wake of a series of sex scandals. Because it is the GOP losing support, there is a chance that Johnson could see his numbers rise as the more right-leaning supporters shift to the ideologically similar Libertarian Party on Election Day.
Johnson faces other challenges in this area. In Utah, Independent candidate Evan McMullin has seen a sharp rise and has been close to tied with both Trump and Clinton in recent polls. This is a blow to Johnson in a state where he otherwise could have been very competitive.
As the poll aggregation and analysis site FiveThirtyEight noted, the conservative candidate has a legitimate chance of winning in his home state.
As of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 24, our polls-only model gave McMullin a 13.9 percent chance of winning Utah, and the now-cast gave him a 22.5 percent chance. Remove [three polls with suspect methodology], and those numbers rise to 23.5 percent and 38.4 percent, respectively.
To make matters harder for Johnson, McMullin has begun an aggressive push to court the “Never Trump” Republicans who would otherwise vote Libertarian.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 25, 2016
But Gary Johnson has a goal beyond just reaching 5 percent in the final polls. He has repeatedly said he aims to win one of the Libertarian-leaning states — most likely his home state of New Mexico — and hopes to force a scenario where neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have enough electoral votes to become president.
— Libertarian Party (@LPNational) October 21, 2016
In that situation, however unlikely, the House of Representatives would vote on the next president with each state as a delegation, giving Johnson the chance to steal a victory and move into the White House. But first, Gary Johnson would have to reverse his dip in the polls and start to make a real move to steal Trump supporters.
[Featured Image by Scott Morgan/AP Images]