Gary Johnson’s poll numbers are rising! The Libertarian Party candidate is enjoying unprecedented support for a third-party nominee, and as disappointed Bernie Sanders voters weigh their options now that Sanders has officially put his support behind Hillary Clinton, the former New Mexico governor may attract even more potential voters to his side.
On Tuesday, Rare Magazine reported that Johnson was polling at 12 percent, up from ten percent in mid-June. Those unprecedented numbers are significant for three reasons.
- No Libertarian candidate has every gotten over two percent of the popular vote. Even Johnson himself, when he ran as a Libertarian in 2012, tallied 1,275,951 votes, or 0.99 percent of the popular vote.
- The last time any third party candidate scored double digits in the polls was Ross Perot, in 1992.
- Most importantly, if Johnson’s poll numbers reach 15 percent, he’ll be invited to the presidential debates; it will be the first time a third party candidate has shared the debate stage with Republican and Democratic candidates since Perot in 1992.
Now that Bernie Sanders has officially thrown his support behind Hillary Clinton, Johnson is using the occasion to reach out to disappointed Sanders voters and bring them to the Libertarian cause. On Tuesday, Johnson released a video, focusing largely on Hillary Clinton’s record of supporting war and foreign military intervention, and calling on those who previously felt the Bern to instead Feel The Johnson.
In fact, disappointed Sanders voters may find a lot of common ground in Johnson’s platform. In addition to opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well foreign military intervention in general. The socially liberal candidate also supports gay marriage, marijuana legalization (and ending the Drug War completely), and abortion rights, among other traditionally “liberal” causes.
— Latinos For Johnson (@Latinos4Johnson) July 13, 2016
Meanwhile, Johnson’s platform of fiscal conservatism — traditionally a plank in the Republican platform — is also attracting Republicans who just can’t bring themselves to support Donald Trump. Former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has broadly hinted that he’s considering voting for Johnson, according to Liberty Viral. Bush is joined by one of Johnson’s opponents in 2012 — Republican Mitt Romney — in considering voting for Johnson, according to Reason.
“If [former Republican Massachusetts Governor and Johnson running mate] Bill Weld were at the top of the ticket, it would be very easy for me to vote for Bill Weld for president. So I’ll get to know Gary Johnson better and see if he’s someone who I could end up voting for. That’s something which I’ll evaluate over the coming weeks and months.”
— Jeremy Abbott (@LeJeremyAbbott) July 8, 2016
It’s not just big-name Republicans who are rallying around the #NeverTrump movement and instead have chosen to #FeelTheJohnson. Just this week, Rhode Island Republican Dawson Hodgson resigned as a Republican delegate in protest of the Trump candidacy, and will instead vote for Johnson, according to the Providence Journal.
“I resigned as a matter of conscience. I believe that Donald Trump’s candidacy is antithetical to the values of my country and the Republican Party, and I don’t desire to assist him in any way.”
So, can Gary Johnson capitalize on disappointment in Trump and Clinton and turn that into a legitimate shot at the White House? Four years ago, that question would have been laughable. Now, however, with two hugely unpopular candidates that aren’t fully embraced by their own bases, the answer is “probably not, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.” In fact, the Libertarian Vindicator envisions a scenario where Johnson — if everything falls into place — scores 99 electoral votes. That’s far short of the 270 required to secure the presidency, but it’s also 99 more electoral votes than any Libertarian Party candidate has ever received.
99 Electoral Votes a Real Possibility for Governor Gary Johnson & The Libertarian Party – The Libertarian Vindicator https://t.co/B7mU1nqww4
— Raul Ruiz, Jr. (@linuxguy45) July 14, 2016
Here’s where things get interesting: should Johnson actually pick up those 99 electoral votes, that would prevent Trump or Clinton from getting the required 270 votes to secure the election. If a candidate fails to get those 270 votes, according to the National Archives, then the House of Representatives votes among the three top-performing candidates. Right now, the Republicans hold a 247-187 majority over Democrats in the House, presumably giving the election to Trump. But considering Trump’s unpopularity among both the general public and even the Republican establishment, Johnson may emerge as a compromise candidate and could find himself heading to the Oval Office.
Do you believe Gary Johnson’s rising poll numbers indicate that he has a legitimate shot at the White House?
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]