Gary Johnson Polls: As Libertarian Candidate Nears 15 Percent Mark Needed To Join Debates, New Poll Shows Johnson Could Win In Utah

Gary Johnson has been steadily building support in the polls as an alternative for Republicans weary of Donald Trump, and now the Libertarian Party candidate could be on the verge of doing something no third-party candidate has done in nearly 50 years — actually win a state.

The Libertarian Party, which advocates for smaller government and greater personal freedoms, normally polls in the very low single digits for presidential elections. But 2016 has been a shock to the political system, with two largely unpopular major party nominees in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Combined with the political experience of Gary Johnson, who served as governor of New Mexico for eight years, the race has suddenly made the Libertarian Party a viable choice.

That has been reflected in the polls for Gary Johnson, who has been polling at close to 8.5 percent in four-way presidential polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. That is roughly halfway to an important milestone for Johnson, as candidates need to reach an average of 15 percent in five surveys picked by the Democrat/Republican-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates to be included in debates that take place this fall.

Johnson would still have halfway to go in the presidential polls, but there could be another avenue for him to be included, Reason.com noted.

“That’s why the Libertarian and Green parties filed suit last September with U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeking to get the 15 percent requirement waived on antitrust grounds, since the two existing market entrants have created an entity which has created rules designed specifically to blunt competition. In May, as Brian Doherty reported here, the L.P. lawyers filed an opposition to the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. It’s now just two months before the first presidential debate is scheduled to be held, and Judge Rosemary Collyer still hasn’t ruled on the motion.”

Gary Johnson has already been peeling Republican support way from Donald Trump, including some powerful players within the GOP. Gary Teal, the vice chair of the Washington, D.C., GOP announced that he would be stepping down from his position so he could support Johnson instead.

“If I’m not going to vote for the nominee, then I have to resign my position,” Teal said (via the Daily Beast). “I’m prepared to do that.”

There are other strong signs in the polls for Gary Johnson. The Salt Lake City Tribune published an internal poll conducted for Rep. Mia Love two weeks ago that found Johnson was within striking distance in the state. The poll put Trump at 29 percent, Clinton at 27 percent, and Johnson at 26 percent.

There is still the chance for Trump’s support to rise in traditionally Republican Utah, as the poll was conducted before Trump selected Mike Pence as a running mate and before the Republican National Convention. Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who had expressed some reservations about Trump in the past and would represent a key endorsement for Trump, said he met with the Republican pair on Wednesday and is comfortable with their place together on the GOP platform.

Herbert told the Salt Lake City Tribune that other voters will likely come back into Trump’s camp once they realize that the real choice is between Trump and Clinton.

“I’m certainly not going to vote for Hillary Clinton, because she is just the opposite of what I want to have happen. She’s not going to shrink the federal government, she’s going to grow it. She’s going to spend more money. She’s going to raise taxes,” Herbert said. “I feel a lot better about it because of Mike Pence.”

Donald Trump will have to win over Utah’s voters, noted Jason Perry, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

“To win over Utahns, Trump needs to tone down the hard-line rhetoric when it comes to immigrants and religious minorities. That doesn’t play well in Utah, given Mormon history,” Perry told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “At the end of the day, though, many Utahns will vote for Trump simply because he’s not Hillary Clinton. Republican loyalists believe Utah will stay red because of strong anti-Hillary sentiment here.”

But if the polls hold up, then Gary Johnson could have a strong chance become the first third-party candidate to win a state since George Wallace in 1968.

[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]